Reconfiguring the human/animal binary

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Schillmoller, A 2011, 'Reconfiguring the human/animal binary', paper presented to Reconfiguring the 'human'/'animal' binary: resisting violence: the 2nd Annual European Conference for Critical Animal Studies, Prague, Czech Republic, 15-16 October.


In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault observed that liberal humanism was ‘sovereign and untroubled’. In an attempt to problematise this assertion, the paper emerges as an artifact of a troubled journey through the sovereign terrain of humanism. It explores and articulates possibilities for a reciprocal ground of animality, a non hegemonic conceptual frontier within which the sovereign terrain of liberal humanism might yield to networks of alliances and reciprocities among human and other-than-human animals. It seeks to locate topography where the conditions of creaturely life may be conceptualised in relational and non anthropocentric terms and to identify alternative ways by which animality might be conceived and represented. The paper moves beyond conventional philosophical genres in order to expose weaknesses in established frames of reference which limit humans’ capacity to think differently about animality. The intent is to identify terrain capable of unsettling the notion of the human as ontologically non animal and to highlight the undecidability of species boundaries with a view to contributing to emergent conversations which expose the erasures of the humanist disavowal of animality and which avoids the haunting spectre of humanism.