Animal Publics: Accounting for Heterogeneity in Political Life

In: Society & Animals
Gwendolyn Blue Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary

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Melanie Rock Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine/Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,University of Calgary

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To what extent do non-human animals participate in that particular political configuration known as a public? While conventional wisdom about publics is predicated on a vision of political agency that privileges discursive and deliberative processes, recent scholarship situated in the material turn in the social sciences and humanities challenges the notion that publics are purely human and constituted exclusively through language. With these theorizations as a backdrop, this paper takes into consideration the multiple species that are implicated in political life and that play a role in constituting publics. Placing material definitions of publics in line with central concerns raised by human-animal studies, it is argued that animality is significant to publics in ways that have yet to be sufficiently theorized. The intent of this research is to invite further investigation of the myriad ways in which animal bodies and lives influence public formations in a manner that accounts for and also exceeds human capacity for symbolic communication.

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