Into the Breach: Toward an Interspecies Politics
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Do non-human animals have the potential to augment power relations? Are they, or, can they be, subjects of justice? This dissertation takes a critical and nuanced dive into the historical and contemporary relationship between human dog handlers and military working dogs in order to track the flow of interspecies power relations to explore these questions. Through a close examination of this interspecies relationship, I document how the divergence in political consideration between dogs and humans reveals how power relations operate between and within species. Although some non-human animals possess the ability to augment power relations, they rarely achieve a political status that is equivalent to the most dominant humans, making them vulnerable to oppression. In light of this reality, I argue that interspecies justice, when it comes to our relationships with non-human animals, is not a universalisable set of principles. In fact, under-differentiated responses risk doing more violence to non-human worlds despite promising justice. Instead, our obligations to other non-human animals need to be understood as deeply contextual and informed by analyzing asymmetric relationships that foreclose the opportunity for some beings to pursue flourishing. An interspecies justice demonstrates in the first place the necessary mutual recognition of dependence between living beings; the recognition of our dependence and need of others in the construction of our world demands greater relations of respect. And second, the promise of an interspecies politics recognizes the multitude and diversity of entanglements any particular being shares with others that mutually uplifts and stimulates co-species flourishing. This is perhaps the most insightful contribution of an interspecies justice. Rather than enhancing our power as humans to shape and control, to objectify the ability of others, the recognition of mutual dependence and difference shows us just how fragile the pursuit of an interspecies justice is. The hope for an interspecies politics, then, becomes more respectful reciprocal interspecies relationships that value difference and lead to the creation of social institutions that socialize care and consideration beyond our immediate relationships.
- Political science