Rights Without Reason: Beyond Critical Theory and Animal Studies
By, Vasile Stanesecu
Critical theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari question humanism and express concern for the welfare of individual nonhuman animals (for example, Jacques Derrida’s denouncement of the factory farm system). And yet, simultaneously, many critical theorists also critique a commitment to ethical veganism and animal rights. The traditional analytic philosophers Peter Singer and Tom Reagan, on the other hand, possess a normative commitment to animal rights and ethical vegetarianism and veganism. Yet these foundational texts of animal rights, in turn, suffer from humanist and anthropocentric biases because they count nonhuman animals’ lives and suffering only when they fit within a human-centric model.
I argue, we must continue to collectively create a Critical Animal Studies, beyond both critical theory and tradition animal studies, simultaneously committed to ethical veganism and animal liberation and yet still critical of humanism and anthropocentricism. We must work together to formulate a new ontology of ethical commitment to nonhuman animals that is simultaneously anti-humanist and anti- speciecist and critical both of animal studies and“ critical” theory itself. And we must combine these insights with a commitment to self-reflective activism and direction action to not only understand biases of speciesism and anthropocentricism but to end them. For only when we transcend the “ sameness” model of a lingering belief in the supremacy of human reason and suffering can we create the needed ethical space to collectively fight for humans, nonhuman animals, and the “natural” world.
Vasile Stanescu co-edits the Critical Animal Studies book series published by Rodopi Press. He serves as the Associate Editor for the Journal for Critical Animals Studies (JCAS) featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times. Stanescu has presented his work at conferences at Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, and Yale, and, internationally, in Canada, Australia, The United Kingdom, Romania, Turkey, and the Netherlands. He has reviewed texts for Ethics and the Environment (Indiana University Press), Society and Animals: The Journal of Human-Animal Studies (Brill), Critical Sociology (Sage Journals), and the book series Key Themes in 20th and 21st Century Literature and Culture (Polity Press). And his research has been recognized by the Institute for Critical Animal Studies, Minding Animals International, The Woods Institute for the Environment, The Andrew Mellon Foundation, Institutul Cultural Român, and the Culture and Animals Foundation. This coming June, Stanescu will be one of sixteen international speakers to present at the ZOO3OOO (OCCUPY SPECIES) conference in Hamburg, Germany on the topic of Critical Animal Studies and Direct Action.