quarta-feira, 29 de julho de 2015

‘Is Our Position Utopian?’ Inheriting Utopia and the Im/possibility of Animal Liberation Today

by Francis Tarpey

We live in a fundamentally speciesist society. Indeed, the very term ‘society’ often hides an invisible preface: ‘human’. It would perhaps seem impossible to imagine ‘society’ otherwise. Statistically, relations with society’s animal others oscillate between industrialized slaughter and general disregard for life– we know the methodologies all too well. Such is the reality that structures, hegemonically speaking, human-animal relations today. Within such a present, demanding justice for (other) animals verges on the impossible, a utopian dream. So what of this dream? Thomas More’s coinage of the term ‘utopia’ from Greek usually translates as ‘no-place’. And indeed, there is ‘no place’ today where the calls for animal justice have been adequately met. We might even say that there is no place that could meet, or even properly understand, such calls without radical transformation. Surely it is utopian to call for animal liberation in the abolitionist sense. Are not such demands impossible? Are we not better to negotiate with the terms of the present and rather call for more ‘humane’ treatment, bigger cages, longer chains? But what then is left open to those of us who work for liberation? What is to be said of utopian desire and its potential to challenge the ‘tyranny of the present’? How might we think the conceptual, political and historical figure of ‘utopia’ with that of ‘animal rights’?
The aim of this paper is to do precisely that. However the notion of ‘utopia’ is not as simple as it may seem. Alongside its constructions in literature and philosophy, utopia has a concrete political history that does not seem to offer the brightest of futures. Often, movements that seem clearly identifiable as utopian have been foundationally tied to exclusion. To address this seemingly inherent possibility, I will turn to the specific utopian project of ‘White Australia’ and focus on the (symbolic, political and material) functioning of the human/animal binary in this context, especially in relation to Aboriginal peoples. This will allow us to see an underside of utopia, that which its critics might intend when speaking of its dangers. But, as I will argue, the historicity of this case, ironically, can also fuel our hopes today for a different and better world and reinvigorate our own utopianism. Exclusions can be redressed and the excluded can and will express their own desire for a radically different –and more just—utopian project. Thus simply because particular historical determinations of utopian desire as political projects have been wedded to exclusion, such is not necessarily the case. An underlying thrust of this paper will be to argue that utopian thought and desire can function today as both medicine and poison to the ills of the present; if one is drawn to the utopian, then it is immensely important to engage in a ‘critical inheritance’ of the term. Returning to the general economy of human relations with other animals today, can we not see the resistance of other animals and their allies as presently engaged in such a move? Here, I will explore –contrasting to the present— the values performatively disseminated through the specific practices of Open Rescue and public days of (non-human) mourning. I will argue that animal liberation may indeed be utopian, have ‘no place’ in the present, but that is precisely why it is necessary.

Francis is a PhD Candidate in Gender, Sexuality & Diversity Studies at La Trobe University. He works in an interdisciplinary manner to understand recent utopian political performances that demand a future that may presently seem impossible. At the moment, his case studies include the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, radical actions for social and economic justice throughout Latin America, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and Animal Rights activism.

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