Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On the "Introduction" of Feminists Encountering Animals

The goal here will be, over the next couple of days, to respond to the various posts of Feminists Encountering Animals. I might not be able to in the time frame, due to ongoing familial commitments and other writing projects, but that is the goal. I had to make some choices about how to respond. On the one hand, I want to encourage other people to engage with those posts, and to make sure there is a dialogue. On the other hand, I feel that the sort of length and general self-talking I plan to do lends itself to separate blog posts over here, with links over there. Also, my hope is that by making blog posts here, people will be more likely to see the original posts. Okay, we are going to start with the intro to the symposium.

The intro is written by the editors of the Hypatia special issue on feminism and animal others, namely Lori Gruen and Kari Weil. While both teach and work at Wesleyan University, in many ways they represent field that have been in tension within animal studies.

One way to exam this is to look at their recent, very good, books. Lori Gruen published Ethics and Animals in 2011, and Kari Weil published Thinking Animals in 2012. Both are wonderful, but also very different. Lori's book is blurbed by people like Peter Singer and Wayne Pacelle, and Kari's book is blurbed by people like Cary Wolfe and Susan McHugh. Lori's book is written in the style and energy of someone trained and very skilled in analytic style ethics, Kari's is written by someone deeply conversant in French theory and philosophy.  And despite those differences (and other, slightly more content oriented ones), their books are very similar. They both deal deeply with themes of grieving and creating personal and empathetic connections with nonhuman animals. They both are interested in a feminist engage with the question of the animal, and also with the gendered realities of animal lives (even if Lori is a long-term ecofeminist, and Kari leans more to a poststructuralist feminism). All of this means that when they work together to bring a symposium on feminism and animal studies, it is sure to be important. And for anyone who has read the entries in the symposium, it obviously is. We have here two great thinkers, each important in the field, and each representing segments of the field that exist in a great deal of tension (analytic and continental philosophy/theory, ecofeminism and poststructuralism).

I don't have much to say about the substance of the introduction they wrote, but I wanted to make sure and highlight how exciting their very working together is for animal studies.