“Why We Eat Our Relatives: The Predation Paradox of Other-Than-Human Kinship”
Daniel Heath Justice (Chair of the First Nations Studies Program at University of British Columbia)
- Public lecture, Thursday November 13, 2014 (4:00–6:00pm, Thomson 101)
- Lunch workshop, Friday November 14, 2014 (11:30–1:30, Savery 408)
Among the many romanticized stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, the noble savage in harmonious bliss with with the natural world is one of the most popular and problematic. In these Eurowestern fantasies, Edenic Indigenous peoples live in peaceful, uncomplicated relationship with the plants, animals, and elements, and all are in simplistic balance in the circle of life. When exercising cultural sovereignty through ritual and subsistence hunting, however, Indigenous peoples challenge these impossible colonialist ideals and are too often demonized by both left and right as brute savages, colonized sell-outs, or enemies of nature. Such dismissals inherently misrepresent Indigenous peoples’ relations to the other-than-human, ignore the history of colonialism and its impacts on Indigenous peoples’ ability to uphold their wide-ranging familial responsibilities, and erase the varied and complicated relations between Indigenous peoples and the diverse beings with whom they abide in kinship, obligation, and even conflict. This presentation will consider subsistence and ceremonial hunting–what we might call the “predation paradox” of killing and eating one’s other-than-human relatives–in Indigenous kinship practices and in contemporary environmental and political discourse, arguing that far from being a challenge to these complex relationships, kinship predation is necessary to their long-term health and to Indigenous ecocultural resurgence.
Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation) is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture and Chair of the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. He is most recently the author of Badger, part of the Animal Series from Reaktion Books (UK), and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (2014). His current works include the literary manifesto, Why Indigenous Literature Matters (forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press) and a study of other-than-human kinship in Indigenous literary expression.
Other Events for 2014/2015
Animal Studies has gained great visibility thanks in part to the contributions of such leading scholarly figures as Jacques Derrida (2008), Donna Haraway (2008), and Martha Nussbaum (2007). As the Chronicle for Higher Education put it, “animal studies has become a force to be reckoned with in philosophy, literary and cultural studies, history, and other fields with a traditionally humanistic bent” (Howard 2009). A sign of the importance of the “animal turn” is the emergence of new fields it has made possible, the most notable of which we argue is the study of what we call “the postcolonial animal,” shorthand for the urgency, utility, and even the necessity of placing race, sex, and species within the same analytic frame.
Following scholarship on intersectionality, a particularly powerful analytic tool for understanding identity formation and experience, we argue that species can be added to—and can intersect with—gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality, to better understand how vectors of power and privilege are formed and how we might start to shift them in the direction of greater social justice.
The Critical Animal Studies Working Group is grateful to the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington for funding a research cluster - The Postcolonial Animal: Nature/Culture/Empire - organized by Professors Maria Elena Garcia (CHID/JSIS), Michael Brown (Geography), and Louisa Mackenzie (French/Italian). Full schedule here.
7PM– January 9, 2015, January 30, 2015, February 13, 2015, February 27, 2015 and March 6, 2015 — Henry Art Gallery Auditorium at the University of Washington
Presented in partnership with the University of Washington’s Critical Animal Studies working group.
Animals occupy a paradoxical place in the world: they are everywhere, yet hidden. This course explores the histories, politics, and cultural dynamics of how humans see and do not see animals in the world. Bringing expertise from wildlife sciences, animal welfare, geography, anthropology, literature and political science, a distinguished set of speakers will explore human-animal connections in a range of global and historical contexts, including Renaissance France, contemporary Peru, and urban and rural spaces in the United States.
This series of lectures will be held at the Henry Art Gallery in conjunction with their upcoming exhibition by Ann Hamilton which will touch on themes of human and non-human animals. For more on Ann Hamilton and this exhibition click here.
For a list of past Critical Animal Studies Working Group events, visit our ‘Past Events’ page.