quarta-feira, 29 de julho de 2015

Deconstructing Vegetarianism: Is Derrida’s “Question of the Animal” Important to Critical Animal Studies?

by Yoav Kenny

In the last two decades of his life Derrida’s answers to his long-standing “question of the animal” focused on ethico-political notions such as responsibility, empathy, sympathy and sacrifice. Despite this focus, and although Derrida criticized human violence towards non-human animals explicitly and relatively extensively, he was reluctant to draw unequivocal conclusions regarding the consumption of animal flesh and defined himself as “a vegetarian in [his] soul.”
Although this obscure and problematic declaration seems to contradict the critical ethos of engaged morality which made Derrida’s work so important and instructing to various strands and practices of critical theory and leftist social philosophies of justice, thus far it generated only two major philosophical responses. In the first, David Wood criticized Derrida for avoiding a real deconstruction of meat consumption which, according to Wood, would necessarily and unavoidably advocate vegetarianism; and in the second, Matthew Calarco rejected Wood’s critique and claimed that the role of deconstruction was neither to support nor to object vegetarianism but rather to sharpen the tools with which we analyze it.
In the first part of the paper I will claim that this debate sketches two different understandings of deconstruction vis-à-vis critical theory in general and critical animal studies in particular: while Wood argues that “Vegetarianism is deconstruction” thus outlining a performative political sense of deconstruction which is indispensable for any critical engagement with nonhuman animals insofar as it is indeed critical, Calarco calls for a “deconstruction of vegetarianism” and sees it as one possible route for the infinite task of deconstructing discourses and institutions as part of a larger critical political task which faces all ethically committed scholars, regardless of their discipline and subject matter, and that as such, it cannot offer any specific contributions to critical animal studies.
In the second part of the paper I will use the conceptualization of flesh and the critical political analyses of animality that Derrida offered in his last texts and seminars in order to support and strengthen Wood’s understanding of vegetarianism as a possible radical politicization of deconstruction which would make Derrida’s philosophical method – and, consequently, Derrida himself – uniquely important and significant to critical animal studies as they now stand.


I'm currently a Fulbright post-doctoral scholar at the Rhetoric Department, University of California, Berkeley and the Editor-in-Chief of Mafte’akh: Lexical Review of Political Thought, which is published (in Hebrew) online by the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University. My PhD is from Tel Aviv University and the title of my dissertation is "Political Animals: Animality and the Political in the Philosophies of Aristotle, Heidegger and Derrida".

4 comentários:

  1. Hi Yoav! I tried to google if Derrida was vegetarian and I found your summary above. Derrida's comment that he was "a vegetarian in [his] soul" was interesting. But did his mouth, esophagus and stomach share his soul's heroic devotion to vegetarianism? In other words, do you know if Derrida was a vegetarian in practice? Did he eat meat? Kind regards, Roger

    1. hey Yoav and Roger! i am searching for the same information...anyone can answer? Derrida was vegetarian in practice? Thanks a lot.King regards (and sorry for my poor english :-) Myriam

  2. From Gary Steiner's book "Animals and the limits of Postmodernism" :

    "To my knowledge, Derrida was neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. Moreover, even though Derrida purports to believe that “we must reconsider in its totality the metaphysico- anthropocentric axiomatic that dominates, in the West, the thought of just and unjust,” he punctuates his remarks about the wrongness of killing animals with the qualification that he is “not recalling this in order to start a support group for vegetarianism, ecologism, or for the societies for the protection of animals.”"

  3. Good evening, is there a place/site we could read this paper?