segunda-feira, 27 de julho de 2015

The human representation of animals as the other, in a cross-cultural, western perspective

by Isa Rasmussen

“If we were aware of the processes whereby we form mental images, we would no longer be able to trust them as a basis for action” (Bateson and Bateson 1987: 89, Milton 2002: 26).

This paper suggest to introduce some challenging considerations that we should come to face in the cross-cultural fields, as offspring of an anthropocentric discipline. This challenge is manifested in our relationships with that which we have come to call ‘animals’. I have been looking at the classification and representation of animals with special consideration of the distinction between humans and animals. More specifically this paper argues that the ‘human-animal’ dichotomisation is interesting because it still is a source of surprising cultural sensitivity, which manifests itself through a prevailing unwillingness to look at this specific case of othering analytically. In this talk I will be addressing the fact that anthropology and later cultural and comparative studies historically have been relying on the process of naturalisation of the ‘human-animal’ divide as a way to protect human superiority. It is so deeply woven into our lives and habits that it seems to be structuring our own thoughts and theeby appear to be practically transparent and illusory.
So the main goal with this is a call for a “post-anthropological” application of anthropological and cross-cultural knowledge concerning the problematic of representation and othering of animals. Even though the real challenges in the analyses this paper presents us with, lie in the sphere of praxis. It is in that sphere that we must reconsider our representation of ‘animals’- a focus on the mechanisms of othering may provide the ground for such a reflective change. Therefore my conclusion is that if we wanna understand this relationship we must consider the ways in which cultural ideas about humans vis-à-vis animals are constructed, and how they have changed and are continuing to do so.
More specifically I will be looking at three different cases where animals are represented as the other, and where different otherpositions are negotiated.
The first case is the so called Holocaust-analogy, the second a case regarding the yukagirs of Siberia and their animistic perspectives on animals, and the last a case about the disneyfication of dolphins. All three cases shows how essential it is for humanbeings to portrait animals at the radical other, in support of our own ontological worldview. This talk will be focusing on the anthropocentric construction of the most radical other: the animals.

My name is Isa Rasmussen, I have a Master from Copenhagen University in Cross-Cultural studies, where I did my thesis in this subject. Last year I followed a decal course at Berkely, California, called “Critical Animal Studies” to get inspiration to my thesis.
I am very interested in this topic which I think is not only essential for understanding animals, but as well for understanding humans. As anthropologist Tim Ingold says the question “what is an animal?” forces us to ask the “more” essential question “what does it mean to be human?””

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