How did the entry/ article draw on interdisciplinary research?
The entry draws from animal studies scholarship, feminist scholarship via postcolonial scholarship to maintain that even semingly liberatory discourses fail to question the very values that they think are redemptive in their politics mainly due to their tendency to approach ‘other’ cultures from a eurocentric standpoint and use eurocentric standards to dismiss ‘other’ cultures without acknowledging how veganism etc. already existed in spaces that can be categorized as the west’s discursive ‘other’. In fact, this is read as a form of eurocentric anthropomorphism.But this should not be grounds for dismissing animal studies (at least as far as its dominant strands are perceived/ read within academic circles) as the discourse itself deals with complex issues pertaining to patriarchal capitalist structures that value some bodies over ‘others’ and critiques a brand of anthropomorphism that is eurocentric, and male (i.e. ‘universal’ human subject), almost by default, thus pointing to the interdisciplinary possibilities within the field.
How would you put this keyword entry into conversation with your scholarly projects in the discipline of Literature?
Ruwanthi: My research is on ethnonationalist violence in South Asia and its collusions with oppressive hegemonic discourses such as capitalism and neoliberalism. Accordingly, I examine the importance of a form of collective politics from below that recognizes a collective struggle that seeks a non-hierarchical sense of solidarity across different forms of state violence and oppression. Thinking about postcoloniality as it is being framed within animal studies scholarship helps me adopt a more post-human approach to the issue of violence and be mindful of the subtle ways in which state sanctioned violence- backed by western and non-western ‘liberal’ epistemology–works to mitigate (more often than not through violent means) the ‘threat’ of the’ other’–human or otherwise.
Sophia: My research interests lie in the field of the twentieth century and global Anglophone literature, with an emphasis on national and personal identity and globalization. I’m interested in exploring the globalness and globality of contemporary literature, specifically the emergence of the global novel. As of yet, I don’t have a clear sense of what my scholarly project is. However, exploring postcoloniality within the framework of animal studies prompts me to think about broader issues, such as anthropocentrism, humanism, and speciesism, and helps expand my narrow understanding of what is the global (this is one question I would have to answer, eventually), simultaneously rethinking the issue of scales (from local to global to planetary).
Choose two or three quotations that you found most resonant in the keyword entry. What ideas in the article were most meaningful/ resonant to you? “Against this backdrop, scholars within Animal Studies and those external to it have raised concerns about the hegemony of Western values in relation to the call for a vegan praxis, arguing that an ethic that requires all humans to refrain from animal consumption espouses Western values that originate from an elitist and culturally imperialist worldview. In particular, critics have highlighted two examples of marginalized racialized groups whose needs are erased by the promotion of veganism: (1) poor urban communities in the United States, where plant- based diets may be inaccessible and too expensive because of the phenomenon of food deserts (Harper 2010), and (2) indigenous societies that have historically relied on sustenance killing of animals and seek to recuperate and uphold these practices today in the name of cultural tradition and self- determination (Nadasdy 2016; Wenzel 1991; see chap. 27). As Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson (2014) have argued, such critiques have dissuaded critical scholars on the left from endorsing and promoting animal justice claims out of the fear of being seen as racist or culturally imperialist and “performing whiteness” (122).” (284)
How did the keyword entry engage with questions associated with the study of literature or culture more generally, like representation, language, or genre?
One of the questions that the entry engages is representation—literary, social, cultural, etc. Postcolonial scholars are concerned with the ways in which ideas about animality and humanness reinforce the “superiority” of Western civilization and the hegemonic ideologies that underpin colonialism. We often encounter the tropes of the nonhuman and animality in colonial narratives, as shown in the dehumanization of the colonized and racialized people. In the entry, Dekha mentions how colonial regimes passed laws against animal cruelty as one of the colonizers’ civilizing missions, a way of fostering compassion for certain animals (281). Yet the project of colonization is also about the colonization of the nonhuman animal bodies—for example, the issue of animal domestication. (It is worth noting the representation of women in literature and its proximity to the animal nature in literature.) In the discussion of veganism and cultural imperialism, Dekha brings our attention to the fact that those who participate in the animal rights movement in the US and Canada are often (or perceived to be) white and middle class. Here, representation is not only understood as a literary issue but also concerned with the social and cultural. Such a discussion brings us to think about the hegemony of Western values in relation to veganism as well as the stereotypes that get attached to veganism.
What primary texts could be brought into conversation with this keyword?
In particular, a few primary texts that could be brought into conversation with the keyword “postcolonial” are J. M. Coetzee’s works (e.g., The Lives of Animals) and Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, which both open up different ways for us to think about animality in a postcolonial context.
-Ruwanthi & Sophia