CFP: Seeing Animals: Derrida, Visuality, and Exposures of the Humam

If the animal image enacts a form of rupture in the field of representation, as Jonathan Burt argues, then what might be the possibilities, and impossibilities, of seeing animals? The ocularcentrism and predominating visuality of our contemporary moment ineluctably shapes our encounters with nonhuman animals, which have been characterized by the ubiquitous presence of the animal in literary, filmic, and artistic works. As Anat Pick contends, the nonhuman animal is “quite literally the stuff of images” — taking up space in our visual field, while also materially composing the photographic and media apparatus through the gelatinous by-products rendered within the walls of the ever-present, yet perpetually inconspicuous, industrial factory farm (as Nicole Shukin attests). From the spectacularization of zoo animals to the dissolution of the modern animal into “pure spectrality” on film (Lippit), the nonhuman animal has often been figuratively represented as a passive object in our scope of vision.

Yet from the scene of exposure in Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am (in which Derrida sees, and is seen by, his cat), we can begin to discern the ways in which seeing animals, and being seen by them, works to illuminate our own positions, vulnerabilities, and blind spots. Following a Derridean deconstruction of the exchange of gazes between the human and nonhuman animal, we therefore call for chapters that investigate the ethical, epistemological, and ontological significance of animal visibilit(ies). What kinds of exposures of the human become possible in this exchange, and how can seeing animals enable us to reconsider the human/animal divide? Furthermore, in what way does the deconstruction of these visibilities work to renegotiate ethnographic and colonial histories that have attempted to capture the exotic animal ‘other,’ or to destabilize natural histories and ethological practices that have relied upon the study of animal characteristics and behaviour to compose a narrative of human-animal difference? In examining the ways in which some animals are objectified through the ocular apparatus (through the display of prize zoological specimens), while others disappear (disguised as “food,” hunting trophies, or decomposed into a nebulous array of industrial by-products), what kinds of ethical demands are placed upon us with regard to seeing, or un-seeing, the nonhuman animal?

In generating responses to these questions, this volume will include theoretically-informed approaches from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Abstracts of no longer than 300 words can be submitted to James Tink at jmtink@g-mail.tohoku-university.jp and to Sarah Bezan atbezan@ualberta.ca. The closing date for submissions is October 31st, 2015. Successful applicants will be notified by December 1st, 2015. Full chapters are due April 30th, 2016.

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