terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2015

Animals in religion and sustainable development: recognition and reorientation

by Yamini Narayanan

Neoliberal development, especially in developing nations generally occurs at the intersection of religion and devastating violence, arising in large part through the commodification of humans and their labour. Additionally in the last few decades, the sustainable development meta-narrative has underpinned much of the philosophical and strategic approaches underpinning global development. In its growth-driven utilisation of nature and emphasis on an efficiency-driven paradigm in development, sustainable development is also arguably a process rife with violence, even as it claims lofty aims of ecological and social justice. Ultimately, sustainable development prioritises human-centred development, is fundamentally anthropocentric, and does not extend its scope across species.
Largely lost in such analyses have been the utilisation and exploitation of animals to aid neoliberal growth and capitalist development. Animals have, amazingly, fallen between the cracks of 'not quite being nature' and 'not quite being human' in development discourse, and been almost entirely neglected as a vital consideration from the perspective of rights, justice and equality. This paper aims to develop post-human frameworks to present one of the first analysis of the connections between animals/religion/development/violence by placing nonhuman animals at the centre. To do so, the paper will demonstrate how religion as well as sustainable development are deployed to utilise animals for capitalist growth.
Using cattle as an illustrative example, this paper demonstrates how Hindu religion as well as sustainable development can be complicit in the brutalisation of cattle for economic profit. Hinduism as well as sustainable development are associated with positive outcomes for environmental welfare and protection. Yet conceptually and empirically, both notions have fallen woefully short of ecological preservation. A closer scrutiny of how nature - particularly sentient life forms such as cattle - are understood in religion and secular development reveals the problematic dimensions and limitations of environmentalism as driven by these lens. I suggest that both these concepts risk objectifying cattle - as sacred resource and capital resource respectively - and objectification, regardless of purpose or process, is inherently a violent process.
The violence inherent in current development practices cannot be fully dismantled unless violence to animals in the name of religion and progress is eliminated. I suggest that as a starting point, animals must be made visible in their role in sustaining human development, identities and cultures through their human-designated roles as religious icons, as well as religious and economic resources. Further, scholars who locate themselves at the intersections of religious/animal/sustainable development must find ways of mainstreaming recognition and respect for nonhuman sentience through reinterpreting key religious scriptures, rituals and values through post-human perspectives. These projects must form the vital foundation for animal rights and welfare in religion and development.

Yamini Narayanan is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Deakin University. Her work explores trans-species feminist urban planning - examining the significant and yet invisible role of animals in city building, and the complicity of urban religion in enabling animal exploitation for urban development. Her book Religion, Heritage and the Sustainable City: Hinduism and Urbanisation in Jaipur (Routledge) was published in 2015. 

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