Sunday, 5 August 2007

And Supppose the Animal Responded? [sic]

What kind of project is a radical sexual politics advocating transformation of the domain of the sexual from a hierarchical, differentiatied field, angled towards adult [human] heterosexuality, into an "open" field in whch the only constraints would be physical abuse, exploitation, compulsion etc? As our bioculture continues to develop, will we see the animal rights movement increasingly forced to marginalise bestiality, in a roughly analagous manner to how gay activists sought to distance themselves from NAMBLA (i.e. North American Man Boy Love Association)?

These questions are disturbing, but seemingly unavoidable. indeed, there is evidence that among the humanities avant garde, the flood gates are starting to open on the taboo topic of bestiality, commensurate with the theoretical erasure of "humanism" and the postmodern sense that, just as the division between work and family is dissolving (witness al those decorations of work spaces in a personal fashionr), so too are humans increasingly welcoming animals into their homes as companions. No doubt this is partly a reflection of an increase in single person households, but for feminist critics such as Barbara Creed, of greater interest in these developments is how they may typify the matching of women's jouissance by the "autotelic fullness of the animal". Creed offers the following rationale behind her piece about bestiality; not to titillate, be pornographic, but rather to examine the anthropocentric nature of human culture, the nature of human/animal relations and the fate of the animal in the modern world. She focuses on the film "Max Mon Amour" because she wishes to make a more general case that cinema has distinguished itself above all other literary, philosophical and artistic spheres, by the degree to which it has allowed the "zoocentric perspective" to find a voice. Thus a "speaking position" for the animal is facilitated by the cinematic apparatus to the extent that makeup, costume etc lend themselves to the expression of many non verbal forms of communication. This leads her to a treatment of Max Mon Amour, "the greatest ape romance since King Kong", as both a critique of anthropocentrism and, to a lesser extent, a satirical comment on bourgeoisie society.

Now, given the long lead in time in preparing a scholarly essay, such constraints do not permit me to demonstrate in great depth how Creed develops her argument. What I can still argue forcefully though is that I think Creed's essay is rather inadequate in many telling respects. Afterall, she scrupulously follows the basic line familiar from my "flexible fascism" posting on actor network theory, with all of its attendant weaknesses. Her conclusion is the Deleuzian one that "becoming animal" is a challenge to the psychoanalytical emphasis on subjectivity as constitutive of identity. According to her, "Max Mon Amour" can be construed as evidence of how "the animal, the unconscious, instincts, the body" can become enabled to speak again.

But what kind of a conclusion is this, really? Minimally, it amounts to a spectacular evasion of any of the justifiable reservations about "sexual radicalism", voiced by not only be cynical "moral entrepreneurs" and public moral discourses generally, but also by other writers, some of them influenced by Freud, and, yes, even Foucault. For if one distills an agreement that no form of sexuality is "natural", does it not still have to be conceded that there remains a difference of a psychical order between a desire and the desire to consummate that desire? In other words, in what sense do some choose to enact their desires? Where are Creed's arguments that militate against social policy and law reflecting a general social presumption, with respect to the sexual, in favour of adult [human] sexuality? In other words, her approach is characterised by a systematic failure to "grasp the nettles of sexual pathology, perversion and offence, to say nothing of the "social obstacles" to "free" sexuality". With J.P. Minson, these points make it clear that it is simply inadequate to reduce all opposition to such "emancipation" to "prejudice", or, in Creed's case, anthropocentrism. What Creed needs to be able to do then, is become more attentive to developing a knowledge, not only a theory or a therapy, "but also a machinery for generating new political arguments- which could counter or modify the sober and pessimistic truths of psychoanalysis."

Until Creed can do this, I remain unconvinced that she has done anything other than perform the substitution of placing identity under the spell of "nature" rather than "the social" (a grotesque Romantic notion familiar from certain Foucauldian/Deleuzian wings of the anti-psychiatry movement, and described in such terms by Whitebook referencing Adorno). Or, as Philip Bell has so eloquently put it, Deleuzian neopsychology for neohumans risks asking for nothing more than conventionalist anti-realism: the only demand of reality is that its proponents speak about it in unconventional ways.

Contra Creed, the difficult issue is how to go about conjoining deliberate experimentation with critical reflection, and then relating and mobilising them in relation to different understandings of risk, uncertainty and ignorance. In this situation one becomes concerned with a different Deleuzian inflection, that of the ethno-epistemic assemblage, which could stress the indivisibility of science, society and citizenship. Because I am interested in further research on the assemblage, and whether it can be contrasted with the weaknesses of actor network theory, there is much more remaining to be said on this topic, be it either on this blog or in some other forum. What I'll do for the moment instead is paste a lot of stuff below offering a few critical pointers, on bestiality, anthropocentrism, and the social sciences, considered both together and separately, including a brief sampling of Steven Shaviro's postmodern hyperbole that is comparable, in my view, to Creed's work.

"Our bodies join and separate: this is the mark of the social, whether in frogs or human beings or prokaryotes. To speak of human culture is much the same thing as to speak of a "culture" of bacteria. Only those dazzled by Gutenberg's movable type, or by the concurrent figure of "Man," could ever have imagined otherwise. But now "Man" is on the verge of disappearing: he is gradually being erased, as Foucault puts it, "like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea." Today, we no longer believe in the uniqueness of human language; we are no longer willing to obey the modernist injunction "to know sex, to reveal its law and its power, to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate it in discourse, to formulate it in truth." The new electronic and informational technologies have permeated and 'denatured' our world; this transformation invites us to imagine "a different economy of bodies and pleasures," one no longer subjected to what Foucault mockingly calls "the austere monarchy of sex." In postmodern culture, as Deleuze says explicating Foucault, "the forces in man enter into relation with forces from the outside, those of silicon replacing carbon, of genetic components replacing the organism, of agrammaticalities replacing the signifier." Such outside forces are now the only "nature" we know; they define our very being. Human culture is in large part a machine--a technology, a software--for experimentally simulating the effects of biological evolution. Alas, in most cases we don't do all that good a job of it. Even our cutting-edge engineering projects--like gene splicing and nanotechnology--thus far have only feebly echoed everyday bacterial practices. But we make up somewhat in rapidity of change for what we lose in power and efficiency. We've done in a mere few hundred thousand years what took microorganisms billions. And we have at least equaled bacteria when it comes to such things as waging war, or extending ourselves across the face of the planet. We are continually elaborating newer, more intricate forms of communication. Our touch is, by turns, invigorating and mortal. We exchange memes in the night, with our bodies' erotic contact, just as bacteria exchange genes".

Clifton P. Flynn University of South Carolina Spartanburg
Sociologists have largely ignored the role of animals in society. This article argues that human-animal interaction is a topic worthy of sociological consideration and applies a sociological analysis to one problematic aspect of human-animal relationships? animal cruelty. The article reformulates animal cruelty, traditionally viewed using a psychopathological model, from a sociological perspective. The article identifies social and cultural factors related to the occurrence of animal cruelty. Ultimately, animal cruelty is a serious social problem that deserves attention in its own right, not just because of its association with human violence. Twenty years ago, Bryant (1979) chastised sociologists for their failure to address what he termed the “zoological connection.” Sociologists, he argued, “have tended not to recognize, to overlook, to ignore, or to neglect (some critics might say deservedly so) the influence of animals, or their import for, our social behavior, our relationships with other humans, and the directions which our social enterprise often takes” (p. 399). Two decades later, with few notable exceptions, Bryant’s critique unfortunately is still justified. As Arluke and Sanders (1996) observed, “Most sociological research is anthropocentric (or human-centered) and focuses on relationships among humans” (p. 2). Yet in the last few years, concerns about humans’ relations with other animals have, in Beirne’s (1999, p. 119) words, “infiltrated” sociology (Arluke & Sanders, 1996; Nibert, 1994; Sanders, 1993; 1999; Human-animal interaction, 1994). Sociological analysis of human-animal interaction, of the role of animals in society, is important for several reasons. According to Arluke and Sanders (1996), “It will show us, among other things, how meaning is socially constructed through interaction. It will also show us how we organize our social world and how we see our connection (or lack of it) to other living things” (p. 4). This article applies a sociological analysis to one aspect of human-animal interaction?animal cruelty. In the spirit of Beirne (1997), the purpose is “to contribute to an as-yet-unconstituted sociology of animal abuse” (p. 318). Following Ascione (1993), animal cruelty is defined as "socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal" (p. 28). This definition excludes practices that are socially acceptable (e.g., the humane killing of farm animals, hunting, and the use of animals in research), as well as unintentional acts that have harmful consequences. Cruel behaviors could be acts of omission as well as commission. Pain, suffering, and distress encompass emotional or psychological pain (e.g., teasing, bestiality), as well as physical pain. This analysis will focus on animal cruelty committed by individuals or small groups. It is this category of animal abuse that, much like the early research on wife or child abuse, has been explained almost exclusively using an individualistic, psychopathological perspective while ignoring social structural forces (Gelles, 1993). Just as with family violence, it is equally important to show how a sociological analysis can be applied to better explain this form of individual violence by humans against other animals.

Publication: Archives of Sexual BehaviorPublication Date: 01-DEC-03Format: Online - approximately 10184 wordsDelivery: Immediate Online AccessAuthor: Williams, Colin J. ; Weinberg, Martin S.

Article Excerpt

This article presents a study of 114 self-defined zoophile men who were researched primarily through the use of an on-line questionnaire. We describe how the participants acquired the identity label of zoophile, what it meant to them, and their relationships among themselves. Also examined are how they eroticized animals and how human and feral characteristics combined to form this object choice. Finally, participants' sexual profiles with animals and humans, and how the balance of animal and human desires creates different forms of zoophilia, are described. KEY WORDS: zoophilia; bestiality. Received June 24, 2002; revisions received November 25, 2002, and May, 23, 2003; accepted May 23, 2003 INTRODUCTION Sex between humans and animals is a relatively uncommon source of sexual outlet, usually thought to be confined to a particular age, locale, and gender. For example, Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin (1948) found the highest incidence among adolescent males raised on farms. Moreover, given the expansion of sexual opportunities over the last 30 years, collectively referred to as the "sexual revolution," sex with animals--often considered a substitute sexual activity--is thought to have become even less prevalent in the U.S. population (Hunt, 1974). Despite this, public awareness has increased with regard to the topic. For example, Matthews (1994), a man who had "married" his pony, wrote a book, The Horseman, in which he defended the fights of so-called "zoophiles," a recent identity label for persons who claim sexual-love relationships with animals. Publicity has been further generated by animal fights groups who are attacking zoophiles with the claim that any sexual contact between humans and animals per se constitutes cruelty to animals and should be punished (Beirne, 2000). For example, the Humane Society of the United States (2001) has initiated a "First Strike Campaign" that encourages the passing (or reintroduction) of laws against "bestiality." To add to the debate, the noted animal rights activist Singer (2001) has attacked the taboo against sex with animals on the website of Nerve Magazine. And, a Broadway play by Edward Albee called "The Goat," in which a married man falls in love with a goat and, inter alia, attends an animal lovers' therapy group, won the prestigious Tony Award for best play of 2002. The emergence of sex between humans and animals as a public issue is not confined to the United States. For example, a very accepting book, Dearest Pet by Dekkers (2000), was originally published in Dutch, and received national attention. In Britain, a documentary film on TV, "Hidden Love: Animal Passions," which focused on Missouri's zoophile community, was aired on national TV. (4) A British newspaper ("Beastly passions," 2000) did a long article that claimed that "Bestiality--or zoophilia, as its apologists prefer to call it--has never been more acceptable." This claim notes such themes in magazines, photographs, TV commercials, a book that was nominated for a serious literary prize, and a Home Office (2000) report, titled "Setting the Boundaries," which recommends reducing the penalties for sexual contacts between humans and animals. The interest shown by the public in human-animal sex is not paralleled among sex researchers. Other than the Kinsey et al. (1948) and Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, and Gebhard (1953) volumes, there is little information on the topic in the sex research literature (see Cornog & Perper, 1994; Walton, 2001). At the time we began the present research, a study by Miletski was underway as a doctoral dissertation for the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco (since published in 2002, and which will be compared with our findings in the Discussion section).

Institute for Critical Animal Studies

Morally, nonhumans are regarded as a great deal less important and valuable than all human beings, regardless of their respective capacities and interests of individuals concerned. This ‘lesser-than’ status has a devastating consequence that may serve to seriously harm the interests of human beings as well as (more obviously) nonhuman ones. This thesis seeks to demonstrate how ‘dehumanisation processes’ rely on a low moral regard for nonhuman life, expressed in acts of war, genocide, relations of gender and ‘race’, the commercial production of pornography, and other situations of human and nonhuman harm. Within an examination of the construction of the ‘species barrier’ and protective ‘rights’, the project also sets out to critically question whether the basic rights of many nonhuman animals can continue to be denied with any moral justification. It suggests that sociological analysis brings to issues vital understandings of the socially-constructed nature of much of what is regarded as the ‘just is’ of human-nonhuman relations; and points to its continuing usefulness in examining how societies may react to new moral ideas, often within complex systems of knowledge denial and evasion.

While several existing ASA sections may touch upon aspects of the interactions of humans and other animals occasionally and tangentially, none are adequate vehicles for serious investigation and development of the issues and question in this area. Nor do they provide a specific space in which a theoretical sociological framework on other animals can be collaboratively developed. The ASA section on Animals and Society will facilitate improved sociological inquiry into these issues.

Criminology and Animal Studies: A Sociological View
Society and Animals
Brill Academic Publishers
1063-1119 (Print) 1568-5306 (Online)
Volume 10, Number 4 / December, 2002

Volume 37 Issue 1 Page 117-148, February 1999
To cite this article: PIERS BEIRNE (1999) FOR A NONSPECIESIST CRIMINOLOGY: ANIMAL ABUSE AS AN OBJECT OF STUDY* Criminology 37 (1), 117–148.

This article considers a variety of arguments about why theory and research on animal abuse should be developed by criminologists. These include, with more or less satisfaction, the status of animal abuse as (1) a signifier of actual or potential interhuman conflict, (2) an existing object of criminal law, (3) an item in the utilitarian calculus on the avoidance of pain and suffering, (4) a violation of rights, and (5) one of several oppressions identified by feminism as an interconnected whole. The article concludes that animal abuse is an important object of study for criminology not only sui generis but also because its presence may indicate or predict situations of interhuman violence.

Title: No longer the lonely species: a post-mead perspective on animals and sociology
Author(s): Olin E. Myers, Jr
Journal: International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
ISSN: 0144-333X
Year: 2003 Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Page: 46 - 68
DOI: 10.1108/01443330310790255
Publisher: Barmarick Publications
Abstract: Society’s relations to animals pose possible blind spots in sociological theory that may be revealed and illuminated by studying systems of human-animal interaction. By investigating whether and how animals enter into key processes that shape self and society we may determine the ways in which animals might be included in the core subject matter of sociology. An earlier discussion of the role of animals in sociology initiated by Weber is reviewed. Issues that debate raised about the extent of linguistically-mediated human-animal intersubjectivity are updated. It is in principle difficult to rule out animal languages, and some animals have acquired human language. But sociology may follow a more fecund empirical route by examining successful human-animal performances produced by enduring interspecies relationships. Following this route, this paper specifically argues that the human self should be seen to take root in the available mixed species community. To show this, the work of G.H. Mead is revisited and corrected in light of recent work on early human development, and conceptual analyses of language, the body, and the self. The formation of the self is not dependent on only linguistic exchanges; a nonverbal nonhuman other can contribute to the self-reflective sense of being a human self. Based on this reasoning, examples of studies of humans with wild and domestic animals illustrate the potential for a human-animal sociology.
Human relations, Science, Sociology
Article Type: Research paper
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What Should Sociology Do About Darwin? (Dissertation with heavy sociobiology emphasis)

Morton Sosna
The essays in this volume grew out of a conference held at Stanford University in April 1987 under the auspices of the Stanford Humanities Center. The subject was "Humans, Animals, Machines: Boundaries and Projections."
The conference organizers had two goals. First, we wanted to address those recent developments in biological and computer research—namely, sociobiologya nd artificial intelligence—that are not normally seen as falling in the domain of the humanities but that have reopened important issues about human nature and identity. By asking what it means to be human, these relatively new areas of research raise the question that is at the heart of the humanistic tradition, one with a long history. We believed such a question could best be addressed in an interdisciplinary forum bringing together humanities scholars with researchers from sociobiology and artificial intelligence, who, despite their overlapping concerns, largely remain isolated from one another. Second, we wanted to link related but usually separate discourses about humans and animals, on the ond hand, and humans and machines, on the other. We wished to explore some of the parallels and differences in these respective debates and see if they can help us understand why, in some cases, highly specialized and even esoteric research programs in sociobiology or artificial intelligence can become overriding visions that carry large intellectual, social, and political implications. We recognized both that this is a daunting task and that some limits had to be placed on the material to be covered.
We have divided this volume into several sections. It opens with a general statement by philosopher Bernard Williams on the range of problems encountered in attempting to define humanity in relation either or animals or machines. This is followed by sections on humans and
― 2 ―
animals and on humans and machines.
Animal/Human Studies Group (AHSG)


The study of animal-human relations within the social sciences is an increasingly important, vibrant and burgeoning field. The formation of the BSA Animal/Human Studies Group in June 2006 is therefore an important step towards addressing what Bryant (1979) has called the 'zoological connection', whereby sociologists need to recognise that people co-exist and interact not only with humans but with non-human animals too. For example, animals are increasingly utilised and involved in biotechnology and genomics; animal experimentation; the production and slaughter of food animals; companion animal-human type relationships and the therapeutic use of animals. Moreover, additional animal-related issues that have attracted attention by researchers are: the potential links between animal abuse and domestic violence; the nature of animal-animal interaction; potential links between women, nature and animals; bestiality; human-wildlife interactions; and human responses to companion animal death/euthanasia. Sociologists have much to offer this emerging area of study and are well placed to engage with the multifaceted, ambiguous and challenging nature of the animal-human interface in everyday life.

The BSA Animal/Human Studies Group will enable both current and future sociologists to put non-human animals on to the specialist and mainstream sociological research agenda, thus ensuring that animal-human studies becomes a viable and significant area of sociological study.

Barbara Creed"Bestiality, Darwinism & Desire"

From King Kong to the recent Planet of the Apes, the cinema (mainstream and pornographic) has been drawn to tales and parables about the human-beast, the struggle to survive, the horrors of devolution and bestiality, the boundaries between human and simian, the universal fear of and attraction to the animal other. Darwinian theories of survival of the fittest, evolution and devolution, eugenics and the body have influenced a large number of films but very little has been written on the influence of Darwinism on the cinema. Why is the bestial body such a potent site within the history of cinematic representation? Why was the 'girl and the gorilla' genre so popular? What is horrifying and poetic about bestiality? How does the beast feel? This paper will explore the concept of bestiality in film and other cultural texts & the extent to which bestiality enables a remapping of relations between human and animal, self and other ?

(note to self: follow this up for wider ramifications re: Williams's legacy & cultural studies):

Gregory J. Seigworth
Gregory J. Seigworth is an Associate Professor in the Communication and Theatre Department at Millersville University. He has, most recently, co-edited a special issue of the journal Cultural Studies (2004) on “philosophies of everyday life” and, in 2000, co-edited an issue of the same journal focussed on the work of Deleuze and Guattari. Greg has previously published essays and articles in a variety of books and in such journals as Antithesis, Architectural Design, Cultural Studies, and Studies in Symbolic Interactionism. His most recent essay “One Paradigm Less” on Raymond Williams and Deleuze in cultural studies is coming out in 2006 in a book entitled New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory from Edinburgh University Press.
Email: Gregory.Seigworth (at)

"...deep ecology must answer the question, what propeties exactly make something have intrinisc value? And if one airily and democratically proposes to extend value to all life....why stop there? Why not rocks as valuable? And if so, why not as equally valuable? At that point the theory becomes vacuous, since there are no remaining gradations in value...Further, one can apparently have too much of what would otherwise be a good thing, like plagues of rats: "there is a principle (a sort of inverse of rariety) of diminishing value with increasing numbers, applying also to humans".

Franklin also reasonably questions whether "naturalness", "diversity", "complexity", can respond to this criticism by explaining these sorts of problem of the uneven distribution of value. For example, the invasion of exotic species increases diversity but conflicts with naturalness....

"Complexity as a good produces other problems. Individual life forms and perhaps ecosystems are not the only things with complexity or purposiveness. Should we not assign value to kidneys, even if they are not inside organisms? Or for that matter, machines? Indeed, should we not praise the engineer, who brings into being new ceramics and organic molecules with marvellous properties, which nature herself has left in the sphere of the merely possible? If natural evolution of complex life forms is good, is not speeding it up through biotechnology better?" (J.Franklin "Corrupting the Youth", 2003: 350-352)
(nb: instrumentalism p323 instrumentalism challenges realism, arguing that the unobservable entities of science are not to be taken as literally existing, but only as mental instruments that help us infer from one observed state of the world to another i.e. it is idealism in a piecemeal kind of way).

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