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Witnessing Animal Others: Mourning, Haunting, and the Politics of Animal (After) Lives

FGSS 238
Spring 2018
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: SISP 238
Course Cluster: Animal Studies

Witnessing, mourning, and haunting are frameworks that make political the lives and deaths of human and nonhuman others. Bringing these frameworks into conversation, this course will explore the following questions: What does witnessing and grieving animal lives and deaths show us about economic logics, racialization, and species hierarchies that form the foundation of contemporary social relations? How does the emotional become political in these contexts? What are the limits and possibilities of witnessing and mourning as political acts? How is witnessing distinct from spectatorship or voyeurism? What power dynamics exist in witnessing? What do different rituals or practices of mourning say about the mourner and the subject being mourned? What further action does witnessing or mourning provoke or demand? How do conceptualizations of haunting help to theorize and inform political practices of witnessing and mourning? Central to these questions is a consideration of the way histories track forward and haunt the present--how racialized, gendered, and anthropocentric histories shape contemporary social and economic relations. The course will use these theoretical frames to explore a series of empirical examples, such as: What does it mean to witness and mourn the settler-colonial histories that haunt the present in daily practices of ranching and farming animals for food? How are settler-colonial histories implicated in the phenomenon of animals killed on roads (innocuously termed roadkill) through the development of the U.S. railroad and interstate highway system and through land use change and habitat destruction? What does witnessing the captive animal in the zoo tell us about the imperialist histories of the zoo where humans and animals have been exhibited? What does witnessing or mourning do for the ghostly specters of "spent" dairy cows (lively-yet-soon-to-be-dead commodities) moving through the farmed animal auction yard and for their commodity afterlives born through slaughter and rendering? How does art act as a form of witnessing, for instance, through photographers such as Chris Jordan documenting the afterlives of plastic in the bellies of albatrosses on Midway Island? Throughout the semester, we will use art, fiction, poetry, and memoir to explore these concepts of witnessing, mourning, and haunting in the context of animal lives and deaths. The course will be heavily discussion-based.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS FGSS
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: 75% - 89%

Last Updated on NOV-22-2017
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