Thursday, October 24, 2013

Winning the already won argument: Purity in vegan social movements

Bill Martin, in his Ethical Marxism, has called vegetarianism an already won argument. I take this as broadly given. The philosophical argument, made from Aristotle to Hegel, that animals exist only for humans, is largely routed these days. The evils of the factory farm are so apparent and indefensible that no one today seriously tries to defend the factory farm, with the industry simply supporting ag-gag laws and calling (and treating) animal rights activists as terrorists. This is not to say that veganism has really won. Fights over smaller scale raising and killing animals, various medical expropriations of animals, treatment of non-native animal species, and other issues are still major topics. However, the central apparatuses for the most horrible treatments of animals is mostly won. And yet, despite having won the argument, we are living the age of the most intense and inventive cruelty to the largest number of animals.

So, what to make of this? There are still those who are beefing up arguments around non-native species, for example. And there are those who are repacking and rebranding the already won arguments (Veganism--Now in an all new constructivism flavor!). Actually, both those examples are just me. And I do think it is important work. However, I know, and I am sure my compatriots know, that if the argument is already won, simply reframing the argument is not going to have major impacts. The why the already won argument is not working is one that is addressed by various thinkers-- Carol Adams' absent referent, Barbara Noske's/Richard Twine's/David Nibert's animal-industrial complex, Jacques Derrida's disavowal and the global production of forgetting, Bill Martin's carnivorism, and Melanie Joy's carnism.  I am sure there are many more I have forgotten. Despite their differences, what all of these thinkers are trying to get at is some sort of material and/or ideological system that perpetuates our violence against other animals in the face of the already won argument. And as John Sanbonmatsu points out, many of the arguments against a vegan world are made in Sartrian bad faith.

Now, there are those that believe because we have an already won argument, and we seem to be losing instead of winning, that the failure is one of the animal activist community not agreeing 100% on the correct tactic. Whatever that tactic is: non-violent vegan education, direct action, violence against humans, gradual animal welfare reform, etc. In other words, if we are failing to win, the reason is not with my arguments (whatever they are, they are all correct), it is must be because of the activism of other vegans. They are the ones I need to argue with, they are the ones letting the factory farms and labs and hunting seasons still exist. What emerges here is a purity around tactics and the tendency of vegan policing. I clearly think those are bad things. (1) Because I don't really know what tactics are going to work. But also, (2) I think a certain amount of vegan in-fighting tends to come from our own necessary continued imbibing of the disavowal of the absent carn(ivor)ism-complex (or whatever). This two is a harder thing to articulate, and something that makes me glad this is a blog post, and not an article. However, if there really is a material and/or ideological system out there, it is nuts to assume we have escaped it just because we are vegans, or are becoming-vegan. So, the purity of tactics and vegan policing reassures us that we have escaped. But also, in trying to escape, we have often be warped by those systems. We see those we love and care for munching on corpses, we remember ourselves doing the same thing. We are ridiculed, and demeaned. These sorts of traumas become powerful shaping influences. We learn to believe in our rightness, but also our righteousness. We learn to not listen, to be strident, to become distrustful or contemptuous of others, and to even become distrustful and contemptuous of our desires and instincts. It doesn't, of course, have to be this way. And many people are working to not make it this way.

Ecofeminism (and here I am thinking particularly of Chris Cuomo) has often promoted an ethic of flourishing. And we need that. Not just for the other animals we fight for, but for ourselves and communities. pattrice jones has written about the ways activists can use their trauma to transform themselves and their activism. And there is more, of course. The poststructuralist tradition that tries to think a community without sacrifice, or alternatively, a politics of friendship, is certainly important. Such communities are going to struggle with the normalizing and policing priorities and purities we bring with us. Though I am betting that the work of building such communities are every bit as important for the success of vegan social movements as picking up the bullhorn, and certainly as writing another blog post.

On that note, here is more of my schtick about the rebranding and repacking of vegan arguments (and remember, I am laughing with, not at).

Veganism--Try it any of these wonderful ethical flavors!

Mmm, mmm deontological.


Feminist Ethic of Yummy!

Or try the new veganism-lite -- Now with a sliding scale of Morality!

Or poststructuralist veganism -- now not just for Derrida's soul!

(none of these vegan ethical claims are approved by the dead philosophers associated with them, your vegan experience may vary, void where prohibited, and remember, always vegan responsibly).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CFP: Towards a new thinking of human/animal relations: queers, monsters and zombies

From here:

The Italian quarterly Liberazioni, an antispeciesist journal, represents an important open ground to the debate on "animal rights" in Italy. It appeared for first time on the web in 2004 and in a paper format since summer 2010 (issue number 15 is in preparation right now). The magazine wishes to help nonhuman animals to cease being considered as property which is a fundamental step towards the ending of the inequality between nonhuman and human animals. The scope of Liberazioni is also to promote a lively debate on "The Question of the Animal" and to this aim, it collaborates with other scholars, institutions and journals in various countries with joint projects and translations.

"Towards a new thinking of human/animal relations: queers, monsters and zombies"

Traditionally, antispeciesism has promoted politics of identity to "raise" the status of the nonhuman animals and to liberate them from human oppression. Nonhuman animals have been considered "right holders" only, and only when, they showed to possess some of the traits assumed to be quintessentially human. Subsequently, a different antispeciesist version has been developed, which share the same aims of the previous one (enhanced consideration of the nonhuman animals and liberation), but promotes politics of difference. This perspective, which is based on contemporary continental thought, challenges speciesism through a multiplication of the differences in the two arbitrary fields of the "Human" and the "Animal" and by rejecting the idea that differences can be ranked on a hierarchy scale. More recently, such a view has evolved into a novel thinking of nonhuman and human animals as inhabiting a shared space of embodied indistinction where the boundaries between creatures and species are blurred by the acceptance of their common vulnerability and mortality. Aim of this call for papers is to investigate from different points of view the nature and the characteristics of such a space through the analysis of creatures that overcome the traditional boundaries of genders, species and identity. This is a particularly difficult task since it requires to think outside the "classical" framework grounded on the self and the subject and, therefore, requires a common effort from scholars in Animal Studies to start mapping such a new territory of freedom and liberation.

Contributions on the following issues are welcomed:

1. History of the evolution of the antispeciesist thought from identity to difference and indistinction.

2. How to think nonhuman and human animals outside the boundaries of subjectivity.

3. How these new ways to think human and nonhuman animals would change the praxis of liberation.

4. Hybrids/monsters/zombies in literature, arts and cinema from ancient mythology to modern and contemporary works.

5. Intersections of Animal Studies with Cultural,Women and Queer Studies.

6. Genealogy of the creation of monsters and the political advantages for the dominant élites.

7. Analysis of the concept of metamorphosis, of the resulting creatures and of their literary and artistic representations.

8. Definition of a new concept of veganism, which is not anymore viewed as a life-style, but rather as a way to call into questions traditionally accepted boundaries.

9. Analysis of the technical procedures to create hybrids and the history of the sciences which have led to a blurring of the biological boundaries from Darwin onwards.

10. The use of the monster-concept to maintain the status quo.

Papers should be submitted in one of the following languages: Italian, English, or French. The deadline for paper submission is 30 September 2014. Papers should not be longer than 9.000 words and can contain pictures (not more than 5 and with permission to be reprinted obtained by the authors) which will be published in black and white. The papers will be peer-reviewed and then, if accepted, published either on the journal (in Italian – translation, if needed, will be provided by the editorial board) and the website or only on the website at the discretion of the editorial board. We do not provide additional editorial guidelines at this stage, since all the accepted papers will be then formatted according to the journal's rules by members of the editorial board.

Papers should be submitted at:

"Verso una nuova prospettiva delle relazioni tra umani e animali: queer, mostri e zombi"

Al fine di "innalzare" lo stato degli animali non umani e favorirne la liberazione dall'oppressione umana, l'antispecismo tradizionale ha promosso una politica dell'identità. Gli animali non umani sono stati considerati portatori di "diritti" quando e solo quando mostravano caratteristiche ritenute tipicamente umane. Successivamente, è stata sviluppata un'altra versione dell'antispecismo che, pur avendo gli stessi scopi di quella precedente (migliorare la condizione degli animali non umani e spingere verso la loro liberazione), ha promosso politiche della differenza. Tale prospettiva, che si riconosce nell'ambito del pensiero continentale contemporaneo, critica lo specismo facendo ricorso a una moltiplicazione delle differenze nei due campi arbitrariamente definiti de "l'Umano" e de "l'Animale" e rifiutando l'idea che le differenze possano essere disposte lungo una scala gerarchica. Più recentemente, questa prospettiva si è evoluta in un nuovo modo di pensare gli animali umani e non umani che sono ora visti come abitanti di uno spazio condiviso di corpeazione indistinta, nella quale i confini tra le creature e le specie sono con-fusi dall'accettazione di un comune destino di vulnerabilità e finitudine. Scopo di questo call for paper è quello di analizzare da differenti punti di vista la natura e le caratteristiche di tale spazio dialogando con quegli esseri che hanno oltrepassato i tradizionali confini di genere, specie e identità. Questo è un compito particolarmente difficile dal momento che richiede di pensare al di fuori della "classica" cornice fondata sul sé e sulla soggettività. E' quindi necessario uno sforzo comune da parte di chi si occupa di Animal Studies per cercare di iniziare a cartografare questo nuovo territorio di libertà e di liberazione.

Sono benvenuti contributi che affrontino i seguenti temi:

1. Storia dell'evoluzione dell'antispecismo da un pensiero dell'identità a uno della differenza e dell'indistinzione.

2. Come pensare gli animali umani e non umani oltre i confini della soggettività.

3. Come queste nuove modalità di pensare gli animali umani e non umani possono modificare le pratiche di liberazione.

4. Ibridi/mostri/zombi nella letteratura, nell'arte e nel cinema, dalla mitologia antica alle opere contemporanee.

5. Intersezioni degli Animal Studies con i Cultural, Women e Queer Studies.

6. Genealogia della creazione dei mostri e i vantaggi politici di tale operazione per le élite dominanti.

7. Analisi del concetto di metamorfosi, delle creature che ne risultano e delle loro rappresentazioni letterarie e artistiche.

8. Definizione di una nuova visione del veganismo, non più inteso come stile di vita, ma come mezzo per revocare i confini tradizionalmente accettati.

9. Analisi delle procedure tecniche di creazione degli ibridi e della storia delle scienze che hanno reso indistinti i confini biologici da Darwin in poi.

10. L'utilizzo del concetto di "mostro" per mantenere lo status quo.

I testi dovranno essere redatti in una delle seguenti lingue: italiano, inglese o francese. Il termine per l'invio dei contributi è fissato per il 30 settembre 2014. I contributi non dovranno superare le 9000 parole e potranno contenere immagini (al massimo 5; gli autori dovranno ottenere il permesso per il loro utilizzo) che saranno riprodotte in bianco e nero. I testi saranno letti da studiosi di queste tematiche e, se accettati, pubblicati in italiano sulla rivista cartacea e/o sul web in lingua originale, a discrezione del board della rivista. Si dà libertà di seguire le regole di editing preferite, ma in ogni caso, prima della pubblicazione tutti i contributi verranno ri-editati secondo le norme redazionali della rivista.

I contributi vanno inviati al seguente indirizzo:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hunting power, a correlate to pastoral power. On Grégorie Chamayou's Manhunts.

Jason Read has an interesting and smart post on Grégorie Chamayou's book Manhunts: A Philosophical History. I have been meaning to do a post on that book for a while, and this is a good opportunity. So, make sure to go read Jason Read's post first, then come read this post. Don't worry, we'll wait for you.

First, a couple of quick additions to the feel of the book. It is relatively short--I read it in two afternoons. As Jason Read points out, there is a slightly disjointed feel to the book, as we move from one historical point of the manhunt to another. However, Chamayou does an excellent job coming in reminding us of how this all links up (and if we don't get it the first time, it has a well done conclusion tying it all together). The disjointedness has a theoretical point. Chamayou specifically contrasts his project to Rene Girard's theory of the scapegoat, because for Girard the scapegoat has an ahistorical character. Chamayou wants to try to ground his work in specificity (one can see this also being a critique of Agamben, that Chamayou also contrasts his work with).
Despite the contrast, Manhunts has the feel of a book by Agamben, or Daniel Heller-Roazen, and I mean that in the best sense. Whatever problems I have had with Agamben, I have always enjoyed reading his books, and Manhunts has that remarkable pacing I have always found satisfying in Agamben's books. Now, it is pretty clear that Chamayou is both anthropocentric and a humanist (the book ends with a cry for universal humanism, and the ambivalent nature of humanism with its possibilities for universalism are alluded to more than once), but I still think this is an excellent book for those of us working in posthumanism and critical animal studies.

The nature of this book is to distill and explain the logics and diagrams of a particular form of power--cynegetic (hunting) power. This is exciting because the rise of analysis of biopolitics has taken a problematic direction. In the thanatopolitical understanding of the biopolitical, the Nazi Lager comes to have an almost platonic form of evil, so that analysis of biopolitics come to (a) see everything as an extension of the camp, and (b) all other evils come to be understood only in how close they come to reflecting Auschwitz. While a thorough understanding of the diagrams of power that made the Holocaust possible seems utterly necessary, this platonic evil comes to make analysis of power nearly impossible. The cure is to do something like Chamayou has done, and instead develop genealogies of power that is not just biopolitics (Foucault, I feel, would be the first to agree). So, back to cynegetic power.

As Chamayou notes (and I have elsewhere) in both Plato and Aristotle hunting is seen as an essential part of political theory and philosophical anthropology.
In the Sophist, Plato emphasizes the fact that hunting cannot be reduced to tracking wild animals. Among the different branches of the cynegetic art there is also an art of manhunting, which is in turn subdivided into several categories: “Let us define piracy, manstealing, tyranny, the whole military art, by one name, as hunting with violence.” Although not all these forms are equally tolerated—for example, Plato condemns piracy, “the chasing of men on the high seas,” because it transforms those who practice it into “cruel and lawless hunters”—war appears, by contrast, to be a form of legitimate hunting that is worthy of citizens. Aristotle says much the same: “the art of war is a natural art of acquisition, for the art of acquisition includes hunting, an art which we ought to practice against wild beasts, and against men who, though intended by nature to be governed, will not submit.” Greek philosophers conceive manhunting as an “art” or technology of power. There is an “art of acquiring slaves.” From the outset, domination is examined in a technological perspective: what must masters do to be masters? On what procedures does their power depend? (p.5)
Chamayou is particularly interested in charting this cynegetic power, particularly as a correlate to Foucault's pastoral power.
There are several of us in animal studies who are engaging with Foucault's understanding of pastoral power in thinking through human domination of other animals. In particular, you should read Anand Pandian's "Pastoral Power in the Postcolony" in Animals and the Human Imagination, and read Nicole Shukin's "Tense Animals: On Other Species in Pastoral Power." They are both, actually, really good article, and you should actually read them. Chamayou, however, is not just interested in pastoral power, but its correlate or opposition. Here, another long quotation:
Michel Foucault located, on the basis of Hebrew tradition, the emergence of a pastoral power. But I think this genealogy is missing an essential component. To what, in fact, is the pastorate opposed? In the Old Testament, Foucault explains, “the bad kings, those who are denounced for having betrayed their task, are designated as bad shepherds, not in relation to individuals, but always in reference the whole.” But the figure of the bad king cannot be reduced to the case of the failed shepherd. The real counterpoint to pastoral power, what is opposed to it not simply as a defective form of itself but as its true antithesis, its inverted double and at the same time its foil, is Nimrod, the hunter of men. In the long history of the thematization of power that began in Hebrew tradition, there are in fact two opposing terms: Abraham and Nimrod, pastoral power and cynegetic power. What are the characteristics of this opposition? The first principle of pastoral power is its transcendence. God is the supreme shepherd, but he entrusts his flock to subordinate shepherds. The schema is that of the human shepherds’ entire dependency and complete submission to divine authority. With Nimrod the opposite is true: far rom receiving his people from the hand of God, he captures it by force, with his own hands. The reign of the hunter-king is not only the first power on Earth but also the first power that is specifically terrestrial, whose authority is not inherited from a transcendent source. Nimrod is the first figure of the immanence of power. His rationality is that of a physics rather than a theology of power. This is the first major characteristic of the opposition between cynegetic power and pastoral power: the immanence of the power relationship or the transcendence of the divine law as the foundation of political authority. (pp. 14-15)

While Chamayou will frequently disturb this easy division in his book, it still basically functions throughout. Cynegetic power is fundamentally concerned with accumulation (particularly primitive accumulation) and massification. Pastoral power is concerned with growth and good government. It is concerned with the individual health and life of those in its sway. Cynegetic power is none of these things. It is the logic of the levy and raid. It divides, but does not individualize. Abraham grew a flock, Nimrod conquered an empire.
Chamayou's book is concerned with following the historical development of the concept of cynegetic power. We spend time with colonization and the hunt of indigenous people, hunting of enslaved people, the hunt of the poor in Europe, the hunting of lynching gangs, the police hunt, the hunt of foreigners, the hunt of Jewish people, and the current hunt for undocumented workers. The concern for questions of capital, race, and colonization is a nice corrective to certain texts of current biopolitics that finds within the Nazi Lager the entirety of modern political thought (yes, I mean Agamben and Esposito). One could wish that Chamayou did not take the man of the Manhunt so literally, and take seriously some of the more obviously gendered manhunts. In particular, the withhunt seems glaringly obvious in its omission. Luckily, Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch has us taken care of on that front. One could also wish he had taken a serious consideration in the ways that hunting of nonhuman animals have contributed to some of these problems, like the connection between hunting and colonial imperialism. Luckily, John M. MacKenzie's The Empire of Nature has us covered on that front. Let us, though, continue on charting the characteristics of cynegetic power.
Chamayou further argues:
manhunting becomes a means of waging cynegetic war—a kind of war that has the following characteristics: (l) it does not take the form of a direct confrontation, but of a process of tracking down; (2) the power relationship is marked by a radical dissymmetry in weapons; (3) its structure is not that of a duel: a third term is mobilized as a mediation; (4) the enemy is not recognized as such, that is, as an equal—he is only a prey; (5) use is made of nonnoble means related to policing or hunting rather than to the classical military register. (p. 73)
Several important points here. A cynegetic war is not a traditional war. Clausewitz famously compared war to a dual, however the entire point of hunting is to never engage in a dual. This is why, for Chamayou's latest book The Theory of the Drone (not yet translated), he explains that the drone turned the battlefield into a global hunting ground. Also, Chamayou's opposition to the view of the hunt as being opposed to a dual is part, as Jason Read pointed out above, his opposition to Hegel's master/slave dialectic.

Cynegetic power is seeks to accumulate, it seeks to capture, it takes territory, it divides and massifies. It sees the other not as an equal or a foe, but as prey, and seeks the subjugation and/or eradication of this prey. I am sure you can see that even though Chamayou is horribly humanist and anthropocentric, I see potential in the concept of cynegetic power. This is something I hope to take up in another post, but the question of non-native ("invasive") species is one that is rooted in cynegetic power. Or at least, one we will have trouble understanding if we only have recourse to pastoral power. Why, after all, if there are non-lethal alternatives to dealing with non-native species (assuming we even do), do we so often turn to hunting? To policies of "contain, control, and eradicate"? Or, as the Park Service and the Nature Conservancy once put it, a "mega kill, poison, and burn" plan? As I said, I hope to come back to this, but I think we will need recourse to cynegetic power to understand such moves.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Increasing the number of female submissions at your conference

Over at Feminist Philosophers there is an interesting post/thread on putting on conferences in line with the goals and aims of the GCC. The GCC, for good reasons, has focused on the keynote and invited speakers at conferences. And the Feminist Philosophers have provided some helpful strategies for avoiding an all-male or mostly male conference.  What I am interested in is the other side, how to increase female applications to your conference. This is particularly focused on smaller conferences. The type that that may have one or two invited speakers (if any), and might get 20-50 abstracts (if even 20). I've organized or help organize a few conferences of that size and scope, and I have never had any real issues with mostly all male submissions. So, what follows are some strategies I believe may have lead to that conclusions. More ideas, and criticisms of my ideas, is very much welcomed. This is list is numbered in no particular order of importance.

(1) When writing the CFP, explicitly invite women to submit papers.
(2) Do you do that thing in your CFP where you suggest possible themes to be addressed, or possible thinkers to think alongside/against? Well, make sure to include feminist themes and women thinkers in those lists.
(3) Okay, your cfp is written. How do you send it out?  Think about posting in places you know feminist and women philosophers might be more likely to see it. Think about posting in SWIP-L if it has specific feminist overlaps. Find listservs, websites, blogs, facebook groups, and newsletters that may not be where you would normally post your cfp, and that can expand the diversity of the applicants to your conference.
(4) Like many CFPs, there are mass distribution channels (as I just talked about), and there are more informal social network channels. Social networks, particularly professional ones, often become gendered. If you are dealing with a field that is already heavily gendered, that is even more true. As Matt Yglesias explained so well:

Unless you can say that your personal network is well-balanced between men and women, then you need to take some moments to step back and look beyond that circle to find some women who'd be well-suited to the job. Otherwise a "gender blind" search process will, over the years, put women in an entrenched position of disadvantage.
This means when you look at who you send your CFP too, you might need to do a bit of research, and send it to people who might be strangers. So, if you are running a conference that you know will be geographically small (like a small state philosophy conference) make sure to send your CFP to female professors and instructors within that geographic region. Encourage them to share the CFP. Encourage their students to apply. If your conference is narrow in terms of focus, look for women doing work within your focus. Send the CFP to those women, encourage them to share, and for their students to apply.
(5) Encourage your female students (if appropriate) to apply. Encourage your colleagues to have their female students apply. 
(6) Have you thought about arranging child care for your conference? Look into it, and if possible, make it happen, and put that on your original cfp.
(7) If you are going to have one or two keynotes, try to make sure they are female keynotes. I know that with the funds of your conference, that might not be possible. But before asking that guy you know, and are sure will say yes and for cheap, think if there are women you can at least ask and try to coordinate with. Maybe it doesn't work, but it is a good idea. 
(8) I am just going to steal this from poster "mm" at the Feminist Philosopher thread I indicated before:
Suppose you are soliciting papers for a conference and these papers will be anonymously reviewed prior to acceptance. Suppose you have slots for 8 papers and receive 80 submissions. Don’t select what you take to be the top 8 papers and stop. Rather, first select the top, say 15 papers. In my limited experience, when there is a sufficiently high number of submissions I have very little confidence that the small subset of papers selected is in any sense “the best”. But I am usually pretty confident that a larger subset consists of papers all of which are worthy of being presented. Once you have selected that larger subset, then de-anonymize them and then narrow the selection further by considering factors like inclusiveness.

In general, these ideas can be boiled down to three major ideas: (1) Invite, and be inviting, for women to send abstracts to your conference. (2) Break out of your normal social network and places for posting conference materials, and try to find places that will draw upon a diverse group of philosophers. (3) Make diversity an avowed goal in your conference planning. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Post of Links

Yeah, I know I just did one of these. But I am really busy doing writing not for this blog, and I figured I could just go ahead and throw out some of the more interesting links I have seen. I don't know if I will be able to post the rest of this week.

First, and most importantly, there is a new group blog for animal studies, entitled simply, Animal. It currently features Lori Gruen, Kari Weil, Ann Marie Thornburg, and Beatrice Marovich. Go check it out.

What is a 'safe' classroom, and how do we deal with trauma in our classrooms? I don't know, but this post from Hilary Malatino on teaching trans* issues and trauma in the classroom, and this post from Anthony Paul Smith on a safe classroom might be places to start thinking about these issues.

Tim Morton's Hyperobjects is finally out.

CFP for Humanimalia on Race and Animals.

New issue from American Quarterly on Race and Animals.

James McWilliams on Chipotle's continued use of factory farmed flesh. This is the issue with humane-washing, there is just too much economic incentive to start cutting corners as market demand and share increases.

Weapons of the Strong released an interview with Judith Butler.

Figure/Ground did an interview with Bruno Latour.

Rick Dolphijn did an interview with Donna Haraway.

Mary Zournazi did an interview with Brian Massumi.

This one is a little random, but Ebony did an article on afrofuturism. With Janelle Monáe's new Electric Lady, and Deltron 3030's long waited new album out, something is in the air.

This one is for the government shutdown, Talib Kweli "Get By", from his classic Quality.