WOMGEN 1455 Women, Men, and Other Animals





Mel Chen
Tuesdays, 3:00 PM-5:00 PM

This course explores ways in which human collectives have conceived of other animals, whether in analogical relations for scientific research, exploitative relations for food and labor, affective relations like fear, disgust, love. What are some histories of these unique interdependencies between human animals and nonhuman animals? We will critically explore the relentless and yet slippery divisions between humans and nonhuman animals, seeing them as a falsely singular, conflictual and segregatory divide that has played historical roles in intrahuman violence as well as in the rhetoric, images and institutions of settlement, colonialism and capitalism. We will see ways in which the difference schemes of seeming givens of gender, sexuality, race, nationhood, and ability carry these legacies and obscure other ones that honor and redeem the lives of nonhuman animals. Informing many human/animal divides are binary relations of mind/body, man/woman, light/dark, modernity/tradition, West/rest, civilized/barbarian. Yet it is also evident that animals do not only carry these legacies and burdens; "they" are not simple metaphors nor are they wearers of mere signs for human meaning. They act in a world that is also theirs, and refuse the orders of being imposed on them. Our primary and secondary readings are drawn from queer and trans studies, philosophy, feminist science studies, indigenous studies, fiction, film, activist movements, and more. This is a heavily discussion-based course; we will together learn to be “animal critics” of many phenomena, including the readings themselves, all of which need interpretive augmentation and critique in a given place and time.

See also: Spring 2020