terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2015

Against the Animal as an Anthropocentric Concept: Exploring the Ahuman

by Agnes Trzak

As academics and activists we contribute to antispeciesist work within such fields as animal studies and we locate ourselves within the animal turn , where we learn to focus on the animal as the subject of interest. I suggest a radically different approach for our work, which, like in many social justice causes, shifts the focus from the oppressed to the oppressor, specifically from the animal to what I term the (hu)man. The (hu)man, I suggest, is the masculinist, anthropocentric subject of kyriarchy, a concept describing the interconnectivity of all systems of domination (Sch ü ssler Fiorenza 1992) such as racism, sexism, ageism, nationalism, and speciesism. Thus, to achieve liberation I suggest we need to dismantle kyriarchy by deconstructing the (hu)man and all his institutions. We shall do so by practicing what Patricia MacCormack terms the ahuman (2014). In antispeciesist work we often try to lend a voice to animals by humanising their existence and suffering. We interpret and describe their worlds and their desires. Our intention is to ease their suffering, however we forget that it is the very instance of our human most benevolent identification, description, categorisation and classification of the animal that fetishises and thus objectifies them. Once we have gathered sufficient evidence we declare that specific animals are animate and sentient, thus resembling the human enough for us to acknowledge that they suffer in the spaces in which we imprison them. We do this in order to liberate them by granting them rights, albeit animal rights.
I argue that practicing liberation (be it animal, queer, race or disability based) through this (hu)man concept of right acquisition only ever betrays the Other. By fighting for (equal) rights we fight for ourselves and the animals to become more like, and part of, our oppressors, the white male cishetero subjects who define themselves through our Otherness. We should instead recognise and accept difference. Especially in our antispeciesist work we must acknowledge that we cannot ever know the animal , as it is a (hu)man concept and can thus only exist as a reflection of our perceptions and never in its own right.
I explore how this idea translates into a practice of the ahuman instead of the (hu)man. Within animal studies our subject will always be the animal and our discourse will always be a human and thus a (hu)man one. Hence, we need to shift our thought from the anthropocentric conceptualisation of rights to one of liberation. We can do so by theorising the ahuman instead of the animal. I suggest that the ahuman can not only be theorised but also practiced by creating a queer feminist vegan understanding of intersectional oppression in which the subject of our theory and practice is the (hu)man, which must be deconstructed, undone and eliminated so as to be replaced by the ahuman. I intend to draw attention to possibilities of becoming ahuman and thus preserving our differences as human Others, instead of being appropriated by the (hu)man. As an extension of this, my paper thus addresses not only the undoing of the (hu)man but also that of his relation to the animal.

Activist and PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University, UK (work to be completed in August 2015). a.trzak@gmail.com

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