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Share your Research on Animal Borderlands

Guest Edited by Dominic O'Key


The horror that stirs deep in man is an obscure awareness that in him something lives so akin to the animal that it might be recognised (Walter Benjamin)

In recent years, critical reflections on animality have troubled the concept and self-fashioning of the ‘human’. By paying increasing attention to the borderlands between humans and animals, numerous critics have interrogated how apparatuses of anthropocentrism produce and police a borderland in which certain humans are dehumanized, animalized, or never seen as fully human, while certain nonhumans are interpellated into subjectivity, sentience, or even legal personhood. Furthermore, scholars have argued that the logic of species, or ‘speciation’, is conjoined with logics of coloniality, race, gender, and dis/ability. They suggest that a narrow but mutable concept of ‘humanity’ defines itself against innumerable human and nonhuman animal others. But at the same time, critics insist that the ‘human’ has indeed never been properly or exclusively human. They contend that one of the ways to begin undoing the anthropocentric hierarchizing of life is to affirm – or, to quote Walter Benjamin, recognise – that there is nothing other than a borderland joining and separating humans and other animals. How do we think these two ideas together? How do we deconstruct this borderland without collapsing difference? And to what extent is the ‘borderland’ a useful space and metaphor for theorising the ongoing production of humanimal differences?

This special issue of parallax sets out to theorise and reflect on the ‘animal borderlands’ of speciation. We invite border-crossing essays which navigate and address these animal borderlands. We welcome contributions on, but by no means limited to, the following themes:

  1. The Borderlands of the Human and the Nonhuman

What are the borders of the normative, hegemonic human, and what efforts have been made to unsettle these borders? If the ‘human’ has never been properly human, and if species borderlines are always in contestation, then what are the borders between the human and the nonhuman?

  1. Aesthetic Borders and Nonhuman Life

How do artists, authors, filmmakers and game designers among others trouble the borderlands between different species? What role do aesthetic forms play in mediating and contesting anthropocentrisms? How have artists expanded or contracted the borders of aesthetic forms through their engagements with animality?

  1. The Borderlands of Animal Studies

What are the borders – or limits – of animal studies? How has research conducted at the borderlands of animal studies differently theorised animality and its challenge to the ‘human’?

  1. Border Regimes, the Question of the Animal, and Extinction

In what ways do border regimes rely on a logic of animalization? To what extent can we describe the border using Giorgio Agamban’s notion of the ‘anthropological machine’, an apparatus that decides what is human and what is animal? How do borders impact on human and nonhuman life, and how do these regimes spark human resistance and interspecies solidarities? In other words, how are border regimes also ecological regimes? How do borders organise, isolate and obliterate habitats, and what roles do borders play in the sixth extinction?

Submission Instructions

Potential contributors should submit abstracts of 400 words to the guest editor, Dominic O’Key (d.e.okey@leeds.ac.uk), by January 28th 2019. Final essays must be submitted by August 30th 2019 and should not exceed 7000 words including references. All essays are subject to peer-review.

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