Derrida justifies his stance on violence towards animals when he says: “to understand that although animals cannot be placed under concepts like citizen, consciousness linked with speech, subject, etc., they are not for all that without a ‘right.’ It’s the very concept of right that will have to be ‘rethought'” (Derrida 74). I believe what he means is that “rights” are a human conception so even if humane equalizing of animals is somehow universally legalized and practiced, there’s still no escaping human-laced justifications and notions. I’m just now recognizing that the word humane, a word we commonly associate with the treatment of animals and prisoners whom we treat like animals, has the root word of “human” in it. Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word even includes the phrase “humanistic culture!” Now I can’t stop thinking about this word and I am realizing that to treat someone humanely is “good,” but to treat someone like an animal is “bad,” and I think this is precisely the problem that Derrida is trying to shed light on.
Cary Wolfe quotes Cora Kaplan when she explains the similarly problematic humanistic treatment of people with disabilities: “‘human anomaly . . . continues to trouble the rhetoric of liberal individualism, testing both its ethics of tolerance and its fetishization of autonomy and agency as conditions of human status and civic participation” (138). As I shared in class, even something as little as changing autistic from an adjective that infers an entire being to something like with autism which only suggests a piece of a larger identity, can be rhetorically powerful and change the way how society views and treats people with disabilities and even animals. Taking an example from above, I would suggest that in a perfect posthuman society, when talking about the treatment of an animal, the term animally would replace humanely and humanely would only be used to describe the treatment of humans. I could take it one step further and also suggest that in the perfect posthuman society, that the practice of bestowing human names (or really any sort of name at all) upon animals would cease to exist since this is an act of forcing a human practice onto a nonhuman entity that wouldn’t otherwise recieve a vocalized label. But thus comes the question of “but where would we go from there?” that I have come to many times throughout this semester, because it’s not like humans are going to/would be able to incorporate animal sounds into vocalized communication–the posthuman condition, I’ve come to realize, is cyclical in nature and hopeless to define.
Derrida, Jacques, and Elisabeth Roudinesco. “Violence Against Animals.” For What Tomorrow…A Dialogue. Trans. Jeff Fort. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. 62-76
Wolfe, Cary. “Animal Studies, Disability Studies, and Who Comes after the Subject.” What is posthumanism? Minneapolis, MN: University of Minn. Press, 2010. 127-142