segunda-feira, 27 de julho de 2015

The Histories and Politics of a Critical Animal Studies

by Richard Twine

In examining the histories of Critical Animal Studies it becomes clear that there is a political struggle over its history in certain senses. Those academics and activists who have come to identify with the term or ‘field’ are diverse in their own attachments and politics. As it attempts to globalize CAS also encounters issues over its dominant meanings and claims. As well as espousing different attachments, notably to ecofeminism or anarchism, the multiple CASs also differ according to their use and orientation toward different theoretical frameworks or concepts. Examples here include posthumanism and intersectionality. Moreover there are also ongoing tensions with its contrasted ‘other’, the construction of a ‘mainstream animal studies’. There have been recent protestations from those presumably labelled as inhabiting this space (e.g. Buller 2015).
A useful demarcation that has been made by Vasile Stanescu & Helena Pedersen which gives, I think, some focus to important political differences in the broad field of (critical) animal studies refers to a distinction of emphasis between a focus on the ‘question of the animal’ and a further concern, in critical animal studies, with the ‘condition of the animal’. We might loosely map this onto a theory/practice distinction – though of course all academics struggle, I think, in the endeavour to do something practically useful, something that might actually contribute to change. Specifically, modes of social change that could alter our dominant instrumental treatment of other animals taking place on an enormous scale. 
It’s the apprehension of that violence which seems absent from those writing in less critical forms of animal studies. Unsurprisingly we can also trace these unavoidable fractures in the broad field by attending to the substantive focus of respective scholars. We must surely define ourselves and those differing areas of the field by the research that is done. For example, we can note an emergent sociological focus on veganism in Critical Animal Studies, something I have also increasingly focussed upon. The conversation on veganism also inevitably asks us to consider what we might mean when we bring words like ‘liberation’ into discursive life. Thus I end this deliberation on Critical Animal Studies – its histories and politics - with reflection upon my research on vegan transition, arguing that it can potentially satisfy the criteria of usefulness, as an attempt to engage with and contest the dominant violence of our human/animal relations.

Richard is a Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS ) at Edge Hill University.
He previously worked at the Institute of Education, University of London; the  University of Glasgow and for ten years at Lancaster University, where he was a researcher with the ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen). His research interests take place at the nexus of gender studies, human/animal relations, science studies and environmental Sociology. Much current research focuses upon the issue of sustainable food transitions in the context of climate change.
Richard is the author of the book Animals as Biotechnology – Ethics, Sustainability and Critical Animal Studies (Routledge, 2010), and co-editor, with Nik Taylor of Flinders University, Australia, of The Rise of Critical Animal Studies – From the Margins to the Centre (Routledge Advances in Sociology, 2014). He has published many articles and chapters on issues as diverse as veganism, antibiotics, ecofeminism, intersectionality, posthumanism, bioethics and physiognomy. His own web-site can be found at

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