terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2015

Animal voices: history, agency, and the politics of language

by Eva Meijer

The view that nonhuman animals cannot be political actors because they cannot speak is common in both philosophical tradition and political practice. This view seems to be false in two respects. It refers to a flawed conception of political agency and, second, it ignores the fact that animals clearly do communicate, with each other and with humans. Seeing animals as mute does not simply reflect a misunderstanding of their capacities: it is interconnected with the way humans have defined language and politics and has led to rendering animals silent as a political group.
In his later work, Derrida shows how the question of who speaks is interconnected with anthropocentrism. Philosophers such as Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and Heidegger, saw language as solely human territory, as the defining characteristic that separates humans from all other animals. Recent research in different fields of study challenges this view of animals and language. In fields of study as biology and ethology new research about animal languages, cognition and culture, is presented everyday. In critical animal studies, poststructuralism, posthumanism, and other fields, the human-animal binary and human exceptionalism are challenged. The recent political turn in animal ethics also emphasizes animal agency, and human-animal communication.
However, questions about animal languages and interspecies communication remain underexplored. This is unfortunate, for theoretical but also for practical political reasons: language and communication offer us a way to gain insight into the worlds of other animals, and can guide us in building new worlds with them. If we view other animals as subjects with their own perspective on life, we need to think about how they can have a voice in questions that concern them. In my presentation I will therefore argue we need to rethink language with other animals. This means critically rethinking the interconnections between ‘animal’ and ‘language’ in the Western history of thought, and it means rethinking language with other animals. In the presentation I will first briefly discuss the relation between ‘animal’ and ‘language’ in the philosophical tradition. Building on ideas developed in phenomenology, I then sketch the outlines of an alternative, non-anthropocentric, view of language, as embodied and embedded in practices. I end the presentation with some remarks about how interspecies languages and animal voices can and should inform the larger project of animal liberation.

: animal languages, human-animal communication, animal agency, non-anthropocentrism, animal phenomenology

Eva Meijer is currently working on a PhD project in philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, titled 'Political Animal Voices', in which she develops a theory of political animal voice. She teaches the course 'Animal Ethics and Politics' at the University of Amsterdam and is the chair of the Dutch study group for animal ethics. Recent publications include 'Political communication with animals' in Humanimalia: A Journal of Human-Animal Interface Studies, and 'Stray Philosophy: Dog-Human Observations on Language, Freedom and Politics' in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies. In addition to her academic work, Meijer works as a novelist, visual artist and singer-songwriter.  

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