Sunday, January 16, 2011

Decolonization and Animal Liberation: Love, Violence, Becoming-Other-Wise

Beehive Design Collective. "FTAA." Source:
Some cyber-friends have been pestering me to put up another blog post since I haven't posted anything in three months--well, maybe that's an exaggeration but i really wanted to use the word pestering--, so  I'm posting two abstracts I recently submitted to the Thinking About Animals conference at Brock University (St. Catharines, ON, Canada) going on between March 1 and April 1, 2011. This will be the 10th Critical Animal Studies conference, and Brock is perhaps one of the most deserving universities since its establishment of a critical animal studies minor and an official vegan policy in the Sociology department.

On that note, I encourage you to check out the Critical Animal Studies resource page I created over winter break!!!

The first paper, on Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, is a paper I wrote for Existentialism in the Fall. I went through some angst writing it, but came out overall satisfied with the paper. If any of you are interested in reading it, I'll send you a copy in exchange for some good feedback. The second paper ought to be more familiar to avid readers of this blog. It's basically a summation of what I have written on the understanding of veganism over the last two years or more.

Decolonization and Animal Liberation:
Violence and Becoming-Animal in Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth
In 1961, the Algerian psychoanalysist, Frantz Fanon, published, Les Damnés de la Terre, a book specifically about the revolutionary movement in French Algeria, but a guide to decolonization in general. In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon gives a phenomenological account of the Algerian independence movement, from its inception in local, spontaneous violent uprisings, to a national political movement, to the development of a national culture and new humanism. For Fanon and his friend Sartre, violence is a necessity for the colonized to become fully human and political subjects. Similarly, the development of a national culture is necessary development for not only the liberation of Algeria, but for the future of humanity.

While Fanon’s primary goals are the achievement of national consciousness and a new humanism, a subversive reading of this text foregrounds “the animal” that beseeches his description of decolonization. Fanon’s characterization of the relationship between decolonization and animals is complex: on the one hand, animal being is to be transcended, if not negated through self-assertion and violence, yet the animal virtues of spontaneity, ferocity, and pack-forming are crucial for the overthrow of the colonizers. If humans’ metaphoric relationship to “animality” and animal others materialize in their relationship with one another, as is argued, then decolonization will not be achieved so long as a hierarchical and exclusionary identity politics exists between human and animal others (as is inferred by Fanon and Sartre’s subject-centered humanist discourse). It is argued that the anarchistic process of “becoming-animal” described by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guatarri is a more transformative and promising alternative to humanism for not only human liberation, but also the liberation from humanist violence against “animality” and animal others.

Deconstructing Veganism:
Love, Listening, Conversations, and Companionships Beyond Boundaries
For over a decade, Gary Francione (1996, 2008) has been championed for his bold challenge to the efficacy of “new welfarism” and the sufficiency of lacto-ovo-vegetarian advocacy in the contemporary “animal rights” movements. Yet relatively few animal abolitionists have ever challenged the sufficiency and status quo of veganism. In a time when neoliberalism has come into a greater appropriation of veganism (Hammer 2008), real animals have become absent from the discourse of many animal and vegan advocacy campaigns (Adams 2006), and to be a vegan is more about one’s way of life (i.e. the subculture one belongs to) than one’s actual relationship to animals, a more radical critique of not only vegetarianism but veganism too is needed.

While many celebrate the mainstreaming of veganism, I would like to caution self-identified vegans and animal activists from accepting the present understanding of vegan as an identity of (abstention from) consumption. The present understanding of veganism as a) an identity b) defined negatively as an abstention from c) consumption has lead to a certain modality of political and private life which has been legitimately accused of self-righteousness, identity politics, militancy, colonialism, and privileged consumerism. In light of this, we are called to a radical rethinking of veganism not as a noun (“ vegan”) to be identified with, purchased, consumed, and completed, but as a modality and relationship with others that is never yet complete.

Veganism is something to be understood affirmatively, as an affirmation of our own feelings and the voices of others. Those who have come into veganism as a liberation project must adamantly recall that they did not do so because of convenience, out of tradition, or merely out of pleasure, but because they are in search of affirming love. This love must never be forgotten as their point of departure and arrival. The ends of veganism are in the means of not forgetting, disavowing others. It is through disavowal that people commit the most violence by ignoring their own and others’ sentiments; they wage war on themselves and others for foreclosing ends, ideals, and identities, rather than waging conversation. The end of veganism is thus not to become a vegan, but to become other-wise in conversations and companionships beyond boundaries and “language.”