The significance of what it means to be human has become an explicit problem for many fields in literary and cultural studies today, from posthumanism and human-animal studies to disability studies and various forms of cultural studies focused on the historical and ongoing animalization of human populations. Whether self-identified as posthumanist or not, critical disability studies and critical race studies, for example, have revealed how constructions of what it means to be human have long been wielded to discriminate against both people of color and disabled people. As a result, advocacy movements have paradoxically needed to reclaim the humanity of certain human beings. At the same time, advocates for animals have questioned whether not being human is sufficient justification for being mistreated or killed. We might imagine that a common adversary—the determination of who is “human” (enough) and therefore deserving of ethical or political consideration—would logically lead to coalitions between advocacy movements for animals and historically animalized or dehumanized human populations. But this kind of link has remained fraught, particularly in relation to animality and disability, despite recent attempts in the academy to bring fields such as disability studies and human-animal studies together.


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