Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dale Carrico: Scratch a vegetarian, find a cyborg

Dale Carrico blogs about 'Animal Rites, Vegetarian Criticism, Brutal Theory' at On the nonhuman-human animal demarcation (from the last few paragraphs of Animal Rites):

'[E]ven practices and vocabularies of liberation, whenever they are mobilized and organized by the conventional claim that "we will no longer be treated as ‘mere’ animals!" necessarily simultaneously undermine as well as reanimate certain conspicuously asymmetrical relations of power. They do so by challenging their own location with respect to the human/nonhuman demarcation but otherwise fortifying it.

But surely, it cannot properly be the ambition of vegetarian criticism or activism to eliminate this [nonhuman-human animal] distinction altogether, however. Not even the most utopian advocates for animal rights expect ... that one day nonhuman animals will find their way to the voting booth, or urge the propriety of extending to nonhuman predatory animals, for example, human standards of fairplay or penalties of law. And though I am sensitive to the ways in which observations of this kind are typically used to dismiss or trivialize the very idea of vegetarian sensitivity and practice this seems to me no good reason to refuse to register their significance and force altogether. ...

What is wanted instead is a reconceptualization of the political in which both human and nonhuman animals count as actors and potential peers. This reconceptualization would be facilitated I think by the insistence that the relation of a human being to his ham sandwich or to her leather jacket is always already a relation between animals, always already a political relation between potential peers, and not a prepolitical, instrumental relation of human beings to the realization of their wants. ...

For me, vegetarian criticism must actually take as its point of departure the inevitability of human/nonhuman animal demarcations, an inevitability that is continuous with the concomitant inevitability of ongoing demarcations among animals, human and nonhuman. And this vegetarian criticism should take, then, as its tasks, both the perpetual troubling of these demarcations and the documentation of their transformations and effects. This would seem to me to be a critical practice that comports well with a sense of the political that has as its constitutive anxiety the simultaneous recognition of the necessity and the impossibility of eliminating violence altogether from public life, a sense of the political which provokes a seriousness the strictures of which afford not purity, but, it is to be hoped, among other things, perhaps a real measure of pleasure.'

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