Can the Postcolonial Animal Speak?

In: Society & Animals
Fayaz Chagani York University Toronto Ontario Canada

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This essay addresses the repression of considerations of human-animal relations in postcolonial studies. It suggests that because the field has not fully examined its own anthropocentrism, it continues to reproduce a rather conventional humanism in spite of many claims to the contrary. A central argument of the essay is that in failing to recognize the subjectivity of nonhuman animals, and accepting their exclusion from a moral universe reserved for humans, postcolonial criticism participates in the symbolic and physical violence committed against them. In terms of approach, the essay begins by tracing three humanist “moments” in the career of postcolonialism. This is followed by an assessment of the recent ecocritical turn in postcolonial literary studies. The essay concludes by considering whether humanism does in fact need to be overcome and what remains to be done for postcolonial thinking to more adequately confront “the question of the animal.”

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