ShARC Podcast: Troy Vettese on the Left’s Problem with Meat
In early November we welcomed Troy Vettese to ShARC to present a work-in-progress on Marxism and meat. Troy kindly allowed us to record his lecture, the abstract of which you can find immediately below. Enjoy.
One might think that vegetarianism or veganism are practices that belong to the left. Think of straight-edge vegan punks or the climate activists ladling out lentils at occupations. Yet, there is also a stream within the left that is vociferously opposed to veggie politics, despite the considerable ethical and environmental costs of meat. They are a certain kind of conservative communists that are wary of being too far from the mainstream. George Orwell excoriated sandal-wearing, queer vegetarians, and instead romanticized working-class colliers and practical-minded socialists like himself. Other sausage socialists include Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who believed that meat-eating was a crucial part of human evolution and our species exceptionalism (spawning a whole field of pseudo-scientific evolutionary biology over the last century). Moreover, they believed that meat—and with it, the domination of nature—constituted the good life that socialism would provide for all. Such communist carnivory represented a break in the history of the left, as utopian socialists were often vegan or vegetarian (such as Robert Owen, Percy Shelley, Amos Bronson Alcott, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman). Nor has meat consumption served socialists societies well, as the devastation wrought by factory farms in East Germany in the 1980s or present-day China attests. One would think that Marxists, who are capable of such insightful critique, would be more reflective of dietary habits that contribute so much to climate change and the Sixth Extinction. The left should be wary of carnivory, as its justification often rests on appeals to conservative reason: pseudo-scientific hierarchies, tradition, and power.
Troy Vettese is an environmental historian and a Max Weber fellow at the European University Institute in Fiesole. Half-Earth Socialism, co-authored with Drew Pendergrass, was published by Verso in April 2022
The Animals in That Country – Q&A with Laura Jean McKay
André Krebber, ‘Zoological Decolonizations of the European Subject’
Virtual presentation hosted by Daniel Bowman & Christie Oliver-Hobley, University of Sheffield, UK
Tuesday 19 October 2021, 2pm BST
André Krebber is a lecturer and assistant professor in social and cultural history (human-animal studies) at the University of Kassel. His research interests span animal and environmental history; the history of knowledge, ideas and theory; the history of science and philosophy; theory and philosophy of history; critical theory; and aesthetics.
The term colonization can be considered in both a narrow meaning, as the violent European imperialist movement of early modern times, or a broad, somewhat figurative meaning, as the proliferous infiltration and overtaking of certain structures by others – political, emotional, or epistemological. Both, of course, are closely related. Part of the project of colonization, reflected from its early days right up into the 19th century by the great explorative missions, was the classification of the natural world. As much as this endeavor was concerned with the discovery and apprehension of what was new to the European eyes, as much was it implicated in the domestication and oppression of the colonized spaces.
These natural worlds and especially their animals, from the Americas to Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, were not, as often suggested, unknown of course, if unknown to Europeans. Yet instead of integrating with local cosmologies, these missions adapted the fauna to their specific ways of ordering the world. Thereby, both animals and plants were made recognizable for and to the structures of production and governance the Europeans had brought with them, and thus appropriable, sometimes more although more often less successfully.
In this paper, I want to bring the challenge of decolonization back home to Europe. I will argue that the European subject itself is colonized by the same intellectual structures that the European “age of exploration” exported into the world, and that the European subject requires decolonization from them in the struggle to restructure our relationship to the world. By way of a confrontation with the encounters of the European explorers with the flora in the new locales I finally show, how such decolonization becomes enacted in confrontation with animals specifically. Thus, the struggle for decolonization becomes reversed, by emancipating the European subject from itself through the cosmologies that Europeans colonized in the first place.
Animal Studies in Focus 3 – Gemma Curto and Alice Higgs interview Eva Haifa Giraud and Catherine Oliver
Eva Haifa Giraud has just joined the University of Sheffield as a senior lecturer in Digital Media and Society and is author of Veganism, Politics, Practice, and Theory (Bloomsbury, forthcoming July 2021). Catherine Oliver is a Research Associate on urban ecologies at the University of Cambridge and author of Veganism, Archives, and animals: Geographies of a Multispecies World (Routledge, forthcoming August 2021)
Host Gemma Curto and guest host Dr Alice Higgs ask Eva and Catherine about their new books, the theme is veganism and sustainability.
Image: “Trio” by mripp is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Animal Studies in Focus 2 – Gemma Curto and Cecilia Tricker-Walsh interview Jemma Deer
Dr Jemma Deer is a Researcher in Residence at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and author of Radical Animism: Reading for the End of the World (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2020). You can read more on her website, here: sites.google.com/view/jemmadeer/
Host Gemma Curto and guest host Cecilia Tricker-Walsh ask Dr Deer about her book and her article entitled ‘Quenched: Five Fires for Thinking Extinction’ published in Oxford Literary Review (2019). They discuss extinction.
Image: “Dinosaur Tracks!” by Disgwylfa is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Animal Studies in Focus 1 – Gemma Curto and Juliet de Little in Conversation
This special episode of the ShARC Podcast: Animal Studies in Focus Series, sees host Gemma Curto (@GemmaCurto1), and guest Juliet de Little (@julietdelittle) discuss floodings, their impact on human and nonhuman animals relations and its representations in Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel Rain (2019).
Gemma Curto is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. Her research lies on interdisciplinary approaches to the relationship between literature, scientific methodologies and ecology. She has published an article in Green Letters on floods in biocentric graphic novels (2020). Juliet is a third year PhD student based across the school of Urban Studies and Management School at the University of Sheffield. Her research is concerned with what a climate just response to flooding in England might look like.
Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot, Rain, (London: Penguin Random House, 2019)
Gemma Curto, ‘Floods in contemporary biocentric graphic novels’. Ed. Astrid Bracke and Katie Ritson. Spec. issue of Green Letters: studies in ecocriticism 24 no. 1. (2020), 6-22.
Juliet de Little, ‘Climate Justice and Flooding in England’ [Online Zine], Convivial Thinking , March 2021
Gemma Curto, ‘Chaotics of time in econarratives: from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) to Richard McGuire’s Here (2014)’, PhD thesis (in progress)
Juliet de Little, ‘Climate justice and flooding in England’, PhD thesis (in progress)
Photograph: “A lone armadillo moves across a flooded roadway in Booth, Texas on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. Micharl Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle. www.chron.com/houston/article/Ph…php#photo-10173200”
Lucinda Cole, ‘Plagues, Poisons, Dead Rats: In Search of A Medical Posthumanities’
This is a talk by Lucinda Cole (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), delivered as part of ShARC’s Animal Remains conference (2019).
Anglo-European history is full of failed attempts to eradicate increasingly global rat populations—often through poisons—in the name of human health. Even before being identified as vectors for bubonic plague in the late nineteenth century, rats were regarded as “vermin” and marked for death. Focusing on shipboard rats in literature and natural philosophy, Lucinda Cole traces some of this history, and considers the possibility of a multispecies, ecological approach to our real and imagined “vermin problem.”
Thom van Dooren, ‘Moving Birds in Hawai’i: Assisted colonisation in a colonised land’
This is a talk by Thom van Dooren (University of Sydney), delivered as part of ShARC’s Animal Remains conference (2019).
In September 2011, a delicate cargo of 24 Nihoa Millerbirds was carefully loaded by conservationists onto a ship for a three-day voyage to Laysan Island in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The goal of this translocation was to establish a second population of this endangered species, an “insurance population” in the face of the mounting pressures of climate change and potential new biotic arrivals. But the millerbird, or ulūlu in Hawaiian, is just one of many avian species to become the subject of this kind of “assisted colonisation.” In Hawai’i, and around the world, recent years have seen a broad range of efforts to safeguard species by finding them homes in new places. Thinking through the ulūlu project, this lecture explores the challenges and possibilities of assisted colonisation in a colonised land. What does it mean to move birds in the context of the long, and ongoing, history of dispossession of the Kānaka Maoli, the Native Hawaiian people? How are distinct but entangled process of colonisation, of unworlding, at work in the lives of both people and birds? Ultimately, this lecture explores how these diverse colonisations might be understood and told responsibly in an era of escalating loss and extinction.
Sarah Bezan interviews Lucinda Cole
Lucinda Cole is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois and author of Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literature, and the Sciences of Life, 1600–1740 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016).
Sarah asks Lucinda about her keynote talk at ShARC’s Animal Remains conference. They consider how definitions and conceptions of vermin have changed over time, the ethics of island eco-tourism, how animal studies might look to address the key issues of our time, what animal studies might mean to its various practitioners, Extinction Rebellion, the relationship between scholarship and activism, and that episode of Black Mirror in which soldiers are implanted with chips so that they see fellow humans as vermin.
Peter Sands interviews Thom van Dooren
Thom van Dooren is Associate Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2017-2021) in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, and founding co-editor of the journal Environmental Humanities (Duke University Press).
Peter asks Thom about his new book: The Wake of Crows (CUP, forthcoming 2019). They discuss the possibility of a non-abstract, animal-inclusive ethics, how animal studies might look to address the key issues of our time, such as habitat loss and extinction, field philosophy, violent care, story-telling and “snail semiotics”.
Christie Oliver-Hobley interviews Steve Baker
Steve Baker is a Norwich-based artist and writer. He is Professor of Research for Art and Media at the University of Derby, and Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Central Lancashire.
Christie asks Steve about his recent exhibition, Fieldwork (curated by Maria Lux, Sheffield, April 2019). They discuss animal studies, how Steve got into the field, issues surrounding representation of nonhuman others, plus how artistic work might inform theoretical practice, and vice versa. If you listen to the end you’ll even get to find out Steve’s favourite animal(s)!
You can view images from Steve Baker’s Fieldwork project at: steve-baker.com/artwork