Vulnerability, Transcendence, and the Body: Exploring the Human/Nonhuman Animal Divide within Jainism

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Abstract

Jainism’s renowned compassion toward nonhuman animals is derived from the vulnerability and finitude we share with them. The tradition recognizes the impetus to avoid suffering and preserve life as basic to all living beings and emphasizes our shared existential condition. Nevertheless, Jainism treats the condition of being human as privileged because of its capacity for radical bodily detachment. This article, based on long-term ethnographic work among Jain communities in India, brings Jainism’s traditional understandings of the human/nonhuman distinction into discussion with contemporary philosophical and anthropological reflections on the category of the “animal.”

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