Posthuman Ethics with Cary Wolfe and Karen Barad: Animal Compassion as Trans-Species Entanglement

Theory, Culture and Society 31 (4):51-69 (2014)
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Abstract

Although critiques of humanism are not new, the currency of posthumanist discourse on the nonhuman – the animal, the environment, or the object – suggests rising concerns about humanity’s place in the ecological order. This article interrogates Cary Wolfe's posthumanist framework as he approaches the questions of activism and agency in the context of animal ethics and disability politics. By drawing attention to the contradictions in his own commitments to rethinking human exceptionalism, I examine how Wolfe's appeal for a more compassionate account of ethics vis-à-vis the notion of ‘trans-species empathy’ can be more gainfully addressed through the work of feminist and quantum physicist Karen Barad. This essay contends that by preserving the difference between the human and the nonhuman as something that is given rather than interrogated, the assumption of ‘the human’ as a self-contained identity is left unchanged and unchallenged.

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