Animal Studies Bibliography
Elder, Glen, Jennifer Wolch, and Jody Emel. 1998. Race, Place, and the Bounds of Humanity. Society & Animals 6(2): 183-202.
The authors of this article argue that people use cultural differences in animal practices as a basis for discriminating against ethnic others. They state that animals and their bodies appear to be one site of struggle over the protection of national identity and the production of cultural difference (p. 184). Further, they claim that this process of animal-linked racialization works to sustain the power of dominant groups over others and helps to deny their legitimacy as citizens(p. 184).
A controversy over the human-animal divide is encapsulated in this discrimination. How is it decided which animals should be used as meat and when? The authors argue that the place, and worth, of animals in society is culturally defined, and therefore is dependent upon the particular views and needs of a society. In America this means that animals that can be used in research labs, or those that are good sources of meat are devalued and their deaths are seen as logical and justifiable, whereas it is nearly forbidden to kill animals that are viewed as pets.
The authors point out that newcomers violating or transgressing the established cultural boundary between people and animals become branded as savage, primitive, or uncivilized, and risk dehumanization by virtue of their association with particular animal practices (p 184). This dehumanization is the effect of a desire by the dominant group to maintain its own way of life, its own views its control. In this way, animal practices have become tools of a cultural imperialism designed to delegitimize citizenship (p. 185).
The authors list several examples of how newcomers and those of different races have been persecuted because of animal practices that deviate from the practices sanctioned by the dominant society. They reiterate their point that the human-animal divide is a place-specific, social construction, subject to change over timedepending on time and place, the reasons for assigning groups to one side of the boundary or another change (p. 192). They go on to discuss different stages that Westerners have undergone in their attempts to distinguish between human and animal.
Elder, Wolch, and Emel assert that animals can be used to racialize, dehumanize, and maintain power relations in three key ways: 1)By using animals as absent referents or models for human behavior; 2)By imputing similarities in behavior or bodily features and/or associations with the animal world; and 3)By viewing people (and cultures) through the lens of specific human practices on animal bodies (p. 194). They examine the double standard involved in this categorization and racialization, stating that although attitudes toward animals are dependent on the immediate context (on the place, time, and culture), there is universality of human violence toward animals (p. 199). The authors conclude by denouncing current attitudes toward animals and animal practices, putting forth the notion of le pratique sauvage, which calls for humans to accept rather than deny some of the vulnerability that animals have always known, and reject the illusion that a devaluation of others (human or animal) empowers them or offers them protection from harm (p. 200). Further, this notion supports a position of humility or marginality with respect to Earth that balances needs for safety and security with consideration for the needs of other life forms (p. 200).