Animal Scholarship Opportunity in Social Text

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Social Text

SPECIES

We are soliciting papers for a special issue of Social Text titled SPECIES.  The past decade has witnessed the emergence and crystallization of a field of scholarship hailed as “Animal Studies” or alternatively, the “Post-human turn.”  While this relatively novel formulation reflects a self-conscious interest in animals, it also intersects with longstanding forms of humanistic and social science research on animals that preceded the articulation of an animal-centered field of research.
Inter/disciplinary approaches toward and investments in the study of animals based in philosophy, literature, anthropology, postcolonial studies, history, to name a few—probe a range of critical positions.  Many studies in this field are interested in relations between humans and animals, often interrogating human/animal distinctions in order to de-center humans as ur-subject.  This special issue of Social Text in part will query this trend and thereby the transparency of this human-animal divide and where and how it gets marked; as well as the intellectual instrumentalizing of animals in order to understand humans, which often result in anthropomorphizing of animals through an accordance of “agency”
and “rights”; and will also pursue a potential “post-human” interest in animals in and of themselves.

Our aim for this issue is to map some of the above tendencies while at the same time charting the relatively unknown parameters of this rapidly evolving field. Crucial to our project is an emphasis on both geographical as well as species diversity.  Though there are notable exceptions, their exists a current Euro -American trend in animal studies as well as its tendency to focus on domesticated animals without thoroughly investigating how distinctions between domesticated and non-domesticated animals arise historically and geographically. These are tendencies we seek to disrupt.
Possible themes that submissions may address include:

•    the unsettling of taxonomies of scale and hierarchies of scientific
knowledge across species; heavily trafficked and policed boundaries between humans, animals, and other life forms.

•    animals and intimacy/affection/love/disgust.

•    primates, insect studies, parasites, bacteria, and other forms of
living that challenge the presumed stability and impermeability of human bodies as somehow separate from animals or separate from non-human animals (incompanionate species).

•    pets as neoliberal projects; animals as laborers, producers, consumed
and consumers; domestication as global phenomenon.

•    animals as ubiquitous but also geographically singular and wondrous;
place and species familiarity.

•    animals we ‘live’ with–interrogation of the category ‘domestic’ animal.

•    nature/nuture; animals as ‘natural”; animals as biological proxy for
research (like us, but not like us); use of animals in biotechnology; cloning.

•    animal demography; biopolitics and population construction; the rise
and demise of species.

In addition to standard academic essays, we are open to alternative forms for submissions such as comics, poetry, short fiction, review essays, photo-essays and images (pending production approval).  Essays should be no longer than 8000 words.

Deadline for submission of full essay/contribution is June 1, 2009, though the co-editors of this issue (Jasbir Puar and Julie Livingston) are happy to review abstracts beforehand.  Submissions should be emailed to both editors at jpuar@rci.rutgers.edu and jliving@tulrich.com.

Fur Is Green?

Guest Blogger: Seth Victor

Today I discovered the “Fur Is Green” campaign, sponsored by the Fur Council of Canada. I don’t think anyone who reads this blog will find this campaign anything less than absurd. While I could possibly see someone buying the “Respect for the Land” and “Respect for the People” prongs, I find immense tragicomedy in the “Respect for Animals” section. Adorned by earthy tones and trendy phrases like “eco-conscious,” and the particularly nauseating Beautifully Canadian link (to be clicked at your own risk), the site proudly proclaims, “Nothing is wasted!” The Fur Council wants you to know that we already use animals in practically everything we do, and that the fur trade represent less than one percent of the animals killed in the name of human use. Beyond that, they take care not to trap outside of the regulations developed by Agriculture Canada, and that no endangered species are every used; apparently, they are either never caught by advanced, discriminating traps, or they simply are not used, whatever their actually fate may be.

I think most environmentalists looking at “Fur Is Green” will recoil from its message and not be swayed into purchasing fur lined boxers over environmentally destructive synthetics. I am, however, aware that there are campaigns that emphasize the eco-friendly aspects of hunting, which have their own merits, so perhaps I am wrong. What disturbs me about this campaign is not how effective it may be, but how quickly this decade’s environmental movement is being eroded into a pop culture term devoid of meaning. If the Fur Council can adopt its butchering as a green alternative, I hesitate to think what other environmental disasters could be given the stamp of approval. Prof. Cassuto already mentioned Orwell’s comment about how words matter, but it bears repeating.

Moreover, this campaign illustrates how anthropocentric environmental concerns can be. If fur is good for the environment, we must be excluding other mammals from inclusion in this sustainable world. What kind of world are we saving from pollution by not choosing synthetics? Often when people talk about factory farms as an environmental disaster, they are addressing the methane and waste pollution, but not the cows who are deprived of a full life.

Lastly, I wonder how many people are disturbed by the Fur Council’s reasoning, but are not bothered that the exact same reasoning underlies the laws that keep farmed animals in the atrocious conditions in which they exist. Fur Council assumes that since we are already using animals, we should continue to do so, and that it is actually something of an accolade that they do not come close to destroying as many lives as food production does (I must say that this is the first time I have seen that percentage spun in this manner). How, I ask, is this any different from state laws that allow current industry norms to dictate legal standards for animal treatment, or the underlying philosophy that animals should be denied legal rights because they do not have legal rights? Furthermore, what does that say about Fur Council’s aforementioned standards of care? There is no difference, and yet I am willing to bet that many people who are outraged by this site will not think twice about their next hamburger.

Wording Is Everything

I am delighted that my post has generated so much cogitation.  As the debate continues, though, I want my position clearly understood.  What I said was that vegans and omnivores alike must examine their roles in the industrial food apparatus and in that context stated that it is intellectually inconsistent to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger.  I did not intend to condemn meat-eating — that’s a discussion for a different day.  What I did try to do is point to the hypocrisy of eating factory-farmed food (meat and dairy) while simultaneously criticizing the behavior that created it.  To do so is intellectually inconsistent.  Mariann (in her comment below) is quite right that I do not exclude intellectually inconsistent people from the debate.  My view is that we are all intellectually inconsistent in our way.  My goal is to incorporate our collective/respective inconsistencies into the debate, rather than pretending they do not exist.

–David Cassuto

It Depends on the Cheeseburger

David’s post on the morality of food choices is generating an important debate. What spurred the discussion was David’s assertion that “[a]s a matter of intellectual consistency, it makes no more sense to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger than to condemn racism while attending a lynching”.

I also find it problematic to condemn animal cruelty while feasting on a Big Mac. The problem is one of hypocrisy. It reminds me of Larry Craig and Ted Haggard arguing against gay rights while simultaneously engaging in homosexual behavior. If expressions of moral condemnation are going to carry weight, they ought to not only be uttered but also lived by. Thus, people who truly believe that factory farming is morally unjustifiable should  stop eating factory farmed products. Otherwise, they’re complicit in the very behavior they’re condemning. This is both morally objectionable and strategically ineffective.

On the other hand, whether it’s objectionable to decry animal cruelty while eating a cheeseburger may very well depend on the cheeseburger. Many animal advocates believe that it’s possible to be a responsible omnivore. It’s unclear, for example, whether eating non-factory farmed meat that was humanely raised is morally objectionable. Thus, I’m not ready to state that David’s hypothetical cheeseburger eating animal advocate is being hypocritical if the meat he was eating was humanely raised.

This is not a minor quibble. If I’m right, a person may justifiably decry the horrors of factory farming while simultaneously arguing that his willingness to eat a (humanely raised) cheeseburger should not be dismissed as mere hipocrisy. One must not forget that that although there seems to be a growing consensus regarding the wrongfulness of factory farming, there is no such consensus with regard to the wrongfulness of eating humanely raised meat (putting aside, of course, the thorny problem of defining what counts as “humanely raised meat”).

– Luis Chiesa

Defending Diet Defensively

Interesting piece in today’s NYT about Jeffrey Masson and his path to veganism.  It’s heartening that in the space of a couple of weeks the Gray Lady featured Kristof’s piece (mentioned below) and this one, both of which deal with diet and animal rights.  Overall, I see articles like these as an enormous net positive so the following cavil should be taken in that context.

My quibble involves the ubiquitous need of (non-animal activist) people who write about animal rights and diet to trumpet the challenges of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.  Kristof felt compelled to avow his bona fides as a meat eater and Eric Konigsberg, who wrote the Masson piece, had to open with a joke about the tastelessness of vegan food and to focus on Masson’s nostalgia for and occasional indulgences in dairy products.

It seems to me that non-animal based diets need no longer be treated as fringe behavior (if indeed they should ever have been) and it’s time to move the discourse toward examining the normative issues underlying the American diet.  For my part, I believe that all of us (from vegans to omnivores) need to inspect the way our lives interweave with industrial agriculture and to cry from the rooftops about how corn subsidies as well as confinement pens link directly to animal brutalization.  If we keep the focus on the horrific wrongs of factory farming, then it will become harder and harder for people to shrug good naturedly and chalk up their willingness to eat cruelty to a philosophical disagreement about whether or not to eat meat.  As a matter of intellectual consistency, it makes no more sense to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger than to condemn racism while attending a lynching.

David Cassuto

Summer Grants for Law Students Interested In Animal Law

From the email:

clip_image002

ALDF Summer Research Grants:

Through the funding of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Legal & Historical Center will be able to offer four $1,000 summer research grants. Under our grant program students are assigned topics and they draft a paper for posting on the website along with relevant primary legal materials. The commitment is to a minimum of 100 hours to be completed before August 15, 2008.  We have full explanatory information on how to do the work from a computer located anywhere in the United States, or even foreign countries if you have Internet access. It is suggested that you should be comfortable with a computer, but you do not have to know how to build web pages.

This project has been under way for over five years. We now have considerable material available on the Website at: www.animallaw.info. We have created a basic set of materials for a number of animal issues, posting hundreds of cases and statutes in the process. There are now about 4,000 people who visit the site on a daily basis. Two of our student papers have been requested for printing in books. Please take a moment to view the site if you have not done so before. However, much remains to be done. Summertime and law students combine to create a opportunity to add even more materials to the site.

We have publication needs in enforcement by humane societies, local ordinances, zoning, landlord tenant, comparative law with other countries, state cruelty laws, and animal liability laws. We also need to have more topics that are species focused — tigers, ferrets, and dairy cows being just a few. We are open to additional topics if you have interests and expertise within a particular area.

Please consider applying for a summer research grant.

We will take applications from any student enrolled in an ABA US law school. Given the limited number of grants and the expected number of applications, those who have completed their second year of law school will be given a priority.

Questions? Contact Professor David Favre: favre@law.msu.edu,

517-432-6890

Application for Summer Research Grant

For the summer of 2009, four research grants of $1,000 will be made available for law students willing to commit to a minimum of 100 hours research over the summer. These will be awarded by May 10 from those that apply by May 1, 2009.

_______________________________________                  ______________________________

Applicant                                                                                  e-mail

_______________________________________                  ______________________________

Law School                                                                              phone

_______________________________________                  ____________________

Will be completing which semester of Law School                     Cumulative Law School GPA

Please provide a professor’s name for a reference:

______________________________________

Please provide some background information about your interests and experience with animals and animal legal issues.

Your level of computer experience:

Return to Prof. David Favre – favre@law.msu.edu, Fax: 517-432-6801

Michigan State University College of Law

Shaw Lane

East Lansing, MI 48824-1300

Citizen Suits and Cruelty Laws

One would not expect to find a progressive animal cruelty law in a state that leads the (un)civilized world in the factory farming of hogs.  Yet, North Carolina’s animal protection statute contains a citizen suit provision — which means that private citizens can bring suit against violators of the law.  This private right of action (a rarity in the world of animal law) has yielded some noteworthy successes.

Private rights of action do not solve the problem of cruelty nor address the inequalities underlying the human/nonhuman dynamic.  But this is true throughout environmental law.  Most of the major environmental statutes contain citizen suit provisions even as the laws fail to resolve or even address many of the most urgent issues regarding our relationship with our surroundings.  Ultimately, though, there is no question (in my mind, anyway) that it is better to have laws than to not and that it is better to enforce those laws than to not.  Citizen suits help enforce laws and thus, despite the imperfections of the current legal regime, it would be nice if we had more of them.

David Cassuto