Saturday, January 26, 2013

Animal Theory Unleashed in 2013

One year ago, in recognition of a turn in animal theory over the last several years I created a post called "Animal Theory, Going Feral in 2012." The most exciting trend included advocating for animal others from critical (Critical Theory and Animal Liberation), ecofeminist (Social Lives with Animals), and citizenship theory (Zoopolis) as matters of interspecies justice in contrast to moral rights. In addition, a collection of more nuanced explorations of the ethics of human-animal relations (Animal Kind, Beyond Animal Rights, Animals in Context) as well as an unprecedented piece on plant ethics (Plants as Persons) joined the ranks of the rigorous, groundbreaking classics (Animal Liberation, Case for Animal Rights), but arguably outdated, abstract approaches.

Innovative explorations and comprehensive presentations of human-animal relations are still a comin'. The last half of 2012 and the first half of 2013 may prove to be just as rewarding as the last few. I'm particularly excited about Margo DeMello's Animals and Society, which from a glance over the table of contents seems to map a brilliant trajectory for thinking through the history, social context, and ethics of human-animal relations. Another well-welcomed book is Ryan Hedinger's Animals and War, which touches on a much neglected subject in critical animal studies: the fraternal [sic] participation and subjection of animals as agents in human warfare. Likewise, Juliet Clutton-Brock's Animals as Domesticates seems like refreshing and comprehensive examination of the history of domestication which dos not reduce animals to the role of hapless object in the popular narrative of monolithic human domination favored by advocates and adversaries of animal rights.

In addition, several books explore the construction of the modern human subject and contemporary political systems through the non-criminal violence against animal others and biopolitics of demarcating who is a proper (human) political subject. In Animalia Americana, Colleen Glenney Bogg's tracks the construction of humanity throughout American history from bestiality trials to slave narratives to contemporary feminist theory. Karl Steel's How to Make a Human excavates the violent making of "humanity" in Medieval Europe in contrast to the larger body of literature on the emergence of "humanity" in Ancient Greece and Modern England and France. There is also Cary Wolfe's work, Before the Law, which ought to attract the attention of those interested in continental political theory. And before one assumes deconstructing the border between human and animal is sufficient, consider checking out two more books dedicated to the value of plants, from Daniel Chamovitz's fascinating presentation of plant abilities in What a Plant Knows to Michael Marder's challenging Plant-Thinking.

After so many years mucking through dense theory that doesn't offer itself to political action, I'm enthusiastic for upcoming contributions on tying lived experience with animal advocacy. More than any other animal book this year, I'm highly anticipating Defiant Daughters. The book, edited by Kara Davis and Wendy Lee, focuses on a diversity of women's relationship with a diversity of animal others, including those of queers, differently abled women, and women of color. Norm Phelp's e-book, Changing the Game, genuinely addresses the inherent challenges (and differences) of advocating on behalf of animal others as well as "the rising economic, political, and cultural power of nations such as China, India, and Brazil." Finally, if you missed it, Nick Cooney's Change of Heart might be well worth a read for its presentation of empirical evidence on how to be an effective agent for change.

If you are interested in contributing a book summary and review to be posted on this blog or in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, please send an email or comment below.

Also, please check out the updated Critical Animal Studies Resource List!


Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies (Margo DeMello 2012)
The first book to provide a full overview of human–animal studies, this volume focuses on the conceptual construction of animals in American culture and the way in which it reinforces and perpetuates hierarchical human relationships rooted in racism, sexism, and class privilege. Margo DeMello considers interactions between humans and animals within the family, the law, the religious and political system, and other major social institutions, and she unpacks the different identities humans fashion for themselves and for others through animals.

Animals and War: Studies of Europe and North America (Ryan Hediger 2012)
Animals and War is the first collection of essays to explore its important, yet neglected, topic. Scholars from sociology, history, anthropology, and literary and cultural studies investigate the presence of animals in human wars. The essays analyze a wide range of phenomena, including the new militarization of bees, zoo animals during war, war dogs, Finish horses in World War II, Canadian war literature, and the effort to memorialize nonhuman war animals. Although animals are often forced to participate in human wars, their presence also signals human vulnerability and dependence... Animals and War thus exposes the often paradoxical contours of human-animal relationships

Drawing on the latest research in archaeozoology, archaeology, and molecular biology, Animals as Domesticates traces the history of the domestication of animals around the world. From the llamas of South America and the turkeys of North America, to the cattle of India and the Australian dingo, this fascinating book explores the history of the complex relationships between humans and their domestic animals. With expert insight into the biological and cultural processes of domestication, Clutton-Brock suggests how the human instinct for nurturing may have transformed relationships between predator and prey, and she explains how animals have become companions, livestock, and laborers.

Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity (Colleen Glenney Boggs 2013) 
From the bestiality trials of the seventeenth-century Plymouth Plantation to the emergence of sentimental pet culture in the nineteenth, Boggs traces a history of human-animal sexuality in America, one shaped by sexualized animal bodies and affective pet relations. Boggs concentrates on the formative and disruptive presence of animals in the writings of Frederick Douglass, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson. Engaging with the critical theories of Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway and others, she argues that animals are critical to the ways in which Americans enact their humanity and regulate subjects in the biopolitical state.

How to Make a Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages (Karl Steel, 2011)
How to Make a Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages tracks human attempts to cordon humans off from other life through a wide range of medieval texts and practices, including encyclopedias, dietary guides, resurrection doctrine, cannibal narrative, butchery law, boar-hunting, and teratology. Karl Steel argues that the human subjugation of animals played an essential role in the medieval concept of the human... Humans convinced themselves of this difference by observing that animals routinely suffer degradation at the hands of humans.

Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame (Cary Wolfe 2012)
Wolfe argues that the human­­­-animal distinction must be supplemented with the central distinction of biopolitics: the difference between those animals that are members of a community and those that are deemed killable but not murderable... Engaging with many major figures in biopolitical thought—from Heidegger, Arendt, and Foucault to Agamben, Esposito, and Derrida—Wolfe explores how biopolitics can help us understand both the ethical and political dimensions of the current questions surrounding the rights of animals.

Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat (Ed. Kara Davis, Wendy Lee 2013) 
When The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams was published more than twenty years ago, it caused an immediate stir among writers and thinkers, feminists and animal rights activists alike... the impact of this provocative text on women's lives continues to this day, and it is as diverse as it is revelatory. One writer attempts to reconcile her feminist-vegan beliefs with her Muslim upbringing; a second makes the connection between animal abuse and her own self-destructive tendencies. A new mother discusses the sexual politics of breastfeeding, while another pens a letter to her young son about all she wishes for him in the future.

Changing the Game: Why the Battle for Animal Liberation Is So Hard, and How We Can Win It (Norm Phelps 2013) 
In this controversial and timely book, animal liberation activist Norm Phelps argues that the animal rights movement has reached a crisis point.. First, Changing the Game examines the challenge facing activists and explains why animal liberation is the most difficult struggle for social justice ever undertaken. Next, ... it concludes that... animal rights should be aligned with the progressive movement. In addition, it explores the implications for animal liberation in regards to the rising economic, political, and cultural power of nations such as China, India, and Brazil. Finally, the book analyzes the current strategies of the animal liberation movement... using a theoretical framework created by sociologist Max Weber and elaborated by feminist historian Aileen Kraditor..

Change of Heat: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change (Nick Cooney 2011) 
Why do most Americans say they oppose the cruel practices of factory farms and sweatshops yet still buy products from these places?...Scientific research has generated a wealth of information on how people can be persuaded to alter their behaviors, yet this body of knowledge has been largely ignored by those working to improve society... the book examines over 80 years of empirical research in areas including social psychology, communication studies, diffusion studies, network systems and social marketing, distilling the highlights into easy-to-use advice and serving as a psychology primer for anyone wanting to spread progressive social change.

What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses (Daniel Chamovitz, 2012)
Daniel Chamovitz presents an intriguing and scrupulous look at how plants themselves experience the world—from the colors they see to the schedules they keep. Highlighting the latest research in genetics and more, he takes us into the inner lives of plants and draws parallels with the human senses to reveal that we have much more in common with sunflowers and oak trees than we may realize. Chamovitz shows how plants know up from down, how they know when a neighbor has been infested by a group of hungry beetles, and whether they appreciate the Led Zeppelin you’ve been playing for them or if they’re more partial to the melodic riffs of Bach...

Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (Michael Marder 2013) 
While contemporary philosophers tend to refrain from raising ontological and ethical concerns with vegetal life, Michael Marder... identifies the existential features of plant behavior and the vegetal heritage of human thought so as to affirm the potential of vegetation to resist the logic of totalization and to exceed the narrow confines of instrumentality... Marder focuses on their unique temporality, freedom, and material knowledge or wisdom. In his formulation, “plant-thinking” is the non-cognitive, non-ideational, and non-imagistic mode of thinking proper to plants, as much as the process of bringing human thought itself back to its roots and rendering it plantlike.

...UPDATED (5/30/13)
Arguments About Animal Ethics (Greg Goodale, Jason Edward Black 2010) 
Arguments about Animal Ethics delves into the rhetorical and discursive practices of participants in controversies over the use of nonhuman animals for meat, entertainment, fur, and vivisection. Both sides of the debate are carefully analyzed, as the contributors examine how stakeholders persuade or fail to persuade audiences about the ethics of animal rights or the value of using animals. The essays in this volume cover a wide range of topics, such as the campaigns waged by [PETA]... as well as communication across the human-nonhuman animal boundary and the failure of the animal rights movement to protest research into genetically modifying living beings.

Placing Animals: An Introduction to the Geography of Human-Animal Relations (Julie Urbanik 2012) 
Placing Animals is the first book to bring together the historical development of the field of animal geography with a comprehensive survey of how geographers study animals today... Through the theme of the role of place in shaping where and why human-animal interactions occur, the chapters in turn explore the history of animal geography and our distinctive relationships in the home, on farms, in the context of labor, in the wider culture, and in the wild.

The Ethics of Species: An Introduction (Ronald Sandler 2012) 
We are causing species to go extinct at extraordinary rates, altering existing species in unprecedented ways, and creating entirely new species. More than ever before, we require an ethic of species to guide our interactions with them. In this book, Ronald L. Sandler examines the value of species and the ethical significance of species boundaries, and discusses what these mean for species preservation in the light of global climate change, species engineering and human enhancement. He argues that species possess several varieties of value, but they are not sacred. It is sometimes permissible to alter species, let them go extinct (even when we are a cause of the extinction) and invent new ones..

Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts (Emily Anthes 2013) 
In Frankenstein’s Cat, the journalist Emily Anthes... explores how biotechnology is shaping the future of our furry and feathered friends. As she ventures from bucolic barnyards to a “frozen zoo” where scientists are storing DNA from the planet’s most exotic creatures, she discovers how we can use cloning to protect endangered species, craft prosthetics to save injured animals, and employ genetic engineering to supply farms with disease-resistant livestock... So what does biotechnology really mean for the world’s wild things? And what do our brave new beasts tell us about ourselves?... Anthes highlights both the peril and the promise of our scientific superpowers, taking us on an adventure into a world where our grandest science fiction fantasies are fast becoming reality.

Centering Animals in Latin American History (Martha Few, Zeb Tortorici 2013) 
Centering Animals in Latin American History writes animals back into the history of colonial and postcolonial Latin America. This collection reveals how interactions between humans and other animals have significantly shaped narratives of Latin American histories and cultures... seeking to include nonhuman animals as social actors... The essays discuss topics ranging from canine baptisms, weddings, and funerals in Bourbon Mexico to imported monkeys used in medical experimentation in Puerto Rico... the role of animals in colonization efforts... the relationship between animals, medicine, and health... the politics of hunting, the commodification of animals and animal parts, the protection of animals and the environment, and political symbolism.

The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths (John Gray 2013) 
John Gray’s “Silence of Animals” is an attack on humanism. He condemns this widely accepted secular faith as a form of delusional self-flattery... The book consists of three parts. The first deals mainly with the supposed myth of human progress, the second with the disposition of humans to mythologize themselves and the world through fictions; the third proposes an alternative of pure contemplation that just lets the world be. That is the meaning of the title: we are invited to become more like other animals, freed of the perpetual need for commentary, understanding and transcendence.[*]

Trash Animals: How We Live with Nature's Filthy, Feral, Invasive, and Unwanted Species (Kelsi Nagi, Philp David Johnson II 2013) 
In Trash Animals, a diverse group of environmental writers explores the natural history of wildlife species deemed filthy, unwanted, invasive, or worthless, highlighting the vexed relationship humans have with such creatures. Each essay focuses on a so-called trash species—gulls, coyotes, carp, cockroaches, magpies, prairie dogs, and lubber grasshoppers, among others—examining the biology and behavior of each in contrast to the assumptions widely held about them... By establishing the unique place that maligned species occupy in the contemporary landscape and in our imagination, the contributors challenge us to look closely at these animals, to reimagine our ethics of engagement with such wildlife, and to question the violence with which we treat them.

Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much
(David Robinson Simon 2013) 

Few consumers are aware of the economic forces behind the production of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy... [W]e've lost the ability to decide for ourselves what - and how much - to eat. Those decisions are made for us by animal food producers who control our buying choices with artificially-low prices, misleading messaging, and heavy control over legislation and regulation... Meatonomics is the first book to add up the huge "externalized" costs that the animal food system imposes on taxpayers, animals and the environment, and it finds these costs total about $414 billion yearly... for every $1 of product they sell, meat and dairy producers impose almost $2 in hidden costs on the rest of us.

Animals and War: Confronting the Military-Animal Industrial Complex
(Nocella, Salter, & Bentley 2013) 

[T]he first book to examine how nonhuman animals are used for war by military forces. Each chapter delves deeply into modes of nonhuman animal exploitation: as weapons, test subjects, and transportation, and as casualties of war leading to homelessness, starvation, and death. Just when you thought you knew everything about war and the military, this book takes readers further into the machinery of the military industrial complex... an important text in the fields of peace studies and critical animal studies.

The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: From the Margin to the Centre (Nik Tyler, Richard Twine 2014) 
[T]his volume explores the inner tensions within the broad field of animal studies and provides a platform for the latest critical thinking on the condition and experience of animals. Structured around four sections – engaged theory, doing critical animal studies, capitalism and critical animal studies, and activism – The Rise of Critical Animal Studies demonstrates the contribution of critical animal studies to important contemporary debates and constructs a future direction for the field of animal studies in spite of its various differences and conflicts.

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