University of Cambridge > > Centre for Animal Welfare & Anthrozoology Seminars > Beyond the Pain Principle: The Animal that Therefore I Am Not

Beyond the Pain Principle: The Animal that Therefore I Am Not

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The paper questions some rather well established attitudes and approaches that have shaped the field of animal-studies over the past ten years in order to identifying new methodological productivities suited to a different understanding of animals and our relationships with them. The main argument revolves around a possible re-considering of the concept of Speciesism within a different arena from that of ‘animal rights’ following the perspective that Speciesism has consistently informed, shaped, and defined our attitudes towards animals in a multitude of fields. In deconstructing the concept of Speciesism as defined by Peter Singer, we find that through the arguments in which the generic term ‘animal’ is persistently used, this stands simultaneously for a plurality of animals at once; a compound body, a chimera. However, this is one where all body-parts seem to belong to different mammals, at times birds, but never insects, reptiles or amphibians. The concept of ‘pain’ has played a defining role in the Specisistic argument leading to the distinction between animals that can express pain in similar ways to humans, from those that seemingly do not express pain. Following Emmanuel Kant’s idea that we do not have knowledge of the objects in the world as they are in themselves, but only as they appear, mediated by our sense organs, the text challenges the appropriateness of this approach within the arena of animal-studies in order to decentre ‘the mammal’ and to identify alternative modus operandi. The paper also looks at the prominence of the ‘return of the animal gaze’ as initiated by Derrida, posing the question of how do we relate to the inscrutable, multifaceted eyes of insects? How do we understand amphibians, or how could we understand them differently? What are the productive opportunities involved in these encounters, exchanges and relationships? The work of a number of new and exciting artists will be considered in order to map alternative approaches and methodologies.

This talk is part of the Centre for Animal Welfare & Anthrozoology Seminars series.

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