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Author: Robin Mackenzie


Juxtaposing the continental philosophy of inclusion/exclusion and the cognitive and affective neuroscience of dehumanization, infrahumanization, and rehumanization may inform animal activists’ strategies. Both fields focus upon how we decide who counts and who doesn’t. Decisions over who’s human (or like us) and who isn’t (i.e., who’s an animal, or not like us) are not simply about species membership but involve biopolitical value judgments over who we wish to include or exclude. Posthumanists seek to disrupt the biopolitics of inclusion/exclusion, partly to heal ethical and political relations between human and nonhuman animals. Calarco calls this jamming Agamben’s anthropological machine. Bestia Sacer are those designated as included or excluded, moving among zones of humans, nonhuman animals, and things. Cognitive and affective neuroscience describes how mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion function in dehumanization, infrahumanization, and rehumanization. Humans assign varying degrees of humanity to others according to in-group/out-group status in judgments open to manipulation. Investigating how these mechanisms operate in human perceptions of nonhuman animals may inform activist strategies, transforming ethical and political relations between humans and nonhuman animals and end the exclusion of Bestia Sacer.

In: Society & Animals