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Animals and the Left CFP

One-Day Workshop, NYU Animal Studies

29 June 2018, New York City

Organisers: Sunaura Taylor (NYU), Troy Vettese (NYU), and Alyssa Battistoni (Yale)

In 1917 Rosa Luxemburg wrote to a friend from her prison cell in Breslau:

The hide of a buffalo is proverbial for its toughness and thickness, but this tough skin had been broken. During the unloading, all the animals stood there, quite still, exhausted, and the one that was bleeding kept staring into the empty space in front of him with an expression on his black face and in his soft, black eyes like an abused child. It was precisely the expression of a child that has been punished and doesn’t know why or what for, doesn’t know how to get away from this torment and raw violence.

She, however, was far from the only revolutionary to ponder the plight of animals within broader systems of oppression. Karl Marx studied how early capitalism transformed animals’ bodies to maximise production of fat and flesh. A century after Marx toiled in the British Library, Cesar Chavez organised farm workers in California and later became a vegan, a stance he considered inseparable from his broader politics. Another Californian, Angela Davis, is not only a leading Marxist theorist and activist, but also a notable vegan. Yet, despite this lineage, Marxists have largely shied from carrying out scholarship and activism for animals. This has left animal-rights as the prerogative of other traditions, such as utilitarianism, rights theory, virtue theory, and care theory. Indeed, many Leftists breezily dismiss animal-rights as an example of bourgeois sentimentality.

There is hope! Some excellent works have been written, such as Ashley Dawson’s Extinction, Sunaura Taylor’s Beasts of Burden, Kenneth Fish’s Living Factories, Donna Haraway’s When Species Meet, and Frank Wilderson III’s ‘Gramsci’s Black Marx.’ What we want is to deepen these connections between Left theory and practice to animal-rights. We are most interested in analyses using approaches from Marxism, post-Marxism, Frankfurt School, post-structuralism, queer theory, Afro-pessimism, Afro-futurism, Afro-veganism, disability studies, Karl Polanyi, feminism, anarchism, and other radicalisms. We invite scholars, writers, and activists working on these themes, especially those who live in New York City and its environs as we have limited funds for travel subsidies (but come from afar if you can finance your voyage).

The keynote will be given by film-maker and writer, Astra Taylor.

Please come to share your work on activist campaigns, poetry, ethnography, journalistic investigations, scientific experiments, essays, and academic articles. Projects in all stages of completion will be considered. Please send a three-hundred word abstract and a short CV to Troy (tgv208@nyu.edu) by February 28.


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