I propose a radical departure from the current political discourse in favor of dignity to all. I have been pleased that campus conversations have centered around privilege, equity and inclusion, but as bell hooks teaches, a pedagogy of love needs to be free from domination.
Domination is the norm, and until we learn to stop centering ourselves in conversations about what we pejoratively label ‘animals,’ we fail to realize the moral harm we impose every single day on the most marginalized of identities. We need to be aware of the harm we impose on other species and live with the knowledge that we actively colonize animal spaces every day. In order to begin our reckoning with how we act, we need to stop brutalizing, controlling and actualizing ourselves in relation to animals.
Drawing upon the wisdom of Judith Butler in approaching the concepts of gender and sexual ‘norms,’ I hope to briefly explain an ethic of resistance and provide tools to unpack the way we otherize ‘animals’ and exploit them while taking land that is rightfully theirs and destroying harmony.
For those not entirely familiar with which of her insights I refer to, “We form ourselves within the vocabularies that we did not choose, and sometimes we have to reject those vocabularies, or actively develop new ones.” Understanding this is key to understanding the essentialism we must fight. In our current language, humxns definitionally dominate animals. Humxn is ascribed to have ‘rationality’ and ‘language.’ However, proclaiming this, we legitimize our domination and brutalization of all around us.
“We form ourselves within the vocabularies we did not choose, and sometimes we have to reject those vocabularies, or actively develop new ones.”
We systemically categorize animals in a way that allows us to feel comfortable exploiting them, through rigid essentialism and categorizations. We need to reckon with the way we think of ‘bugs,’ ‘vermin’ and ‘creatures’ in a way that ‘dehumxnizes’ them. However, despite our anti-animalistic society, there are pockets of resistance.
The deconstruction of categories starts with an understanding of the way that Power manifests itself. Foucault aptly describes how what is seen as knowledge is used for social control. “Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.” As such, adapting his insights to challenge stereotypes and myths about what it means to be an animal is crucial to subverting the dynamics that solidify the class dynamics associated with this runaway unaccountable hierarchy.
“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.”
Mosquitos are the warriors on the front-line demonstrating the ethics of resistance. Where other animals must follow commands from atop, unable to strike out from below on the hierarchy, mosquitos directly subvert the naturalist roles that humxns try to control with. Mosquitos fight back, attacking the central premise that legitimates the control of animals by humxn, that humxns are the only ones able to harm that which is ‘otherized’ on a regular basis.
The mosquito thrives off its challenge to the supremacy of humxns and it is glorious. The double sight of being both oppressed yet cognizant of the world built for an oppressor is evident in the casual, and even joyful behavior of the mosquito as it flits from one unprotected arm, neck, leg or back to another. Welts are an instructive reminder that no matter how humxns try to dominate, there will still be hope, and that humxns’ attempts to control more merely sow the seeds of their own destruction.
Homi Bhabha’s hybridity can integrate the righteous cause of the mosquito into the pedagogy of social justice. Hybridity is a postcolonial theory which challenges the cultural norms of the dominant group by ‘queering’ them so that the original medium is unrecognizable to the occupying power. Thus, when mosquitos attack the very foundations of humxn supremacy by becoming the bloodsuckers themselves and acting as an aggressor compared to the submissive bovine, they become unrecognizable to humxnity.
Though the welt on your shoulder feels uncomfortable, it remains an important part of learning.