CFP: Zoopolitical Remains: Seeking Interspecies Justice in the History of Western Political Thought

Submission deadline: January 31, 2024

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Zoopolitical Remains: Seeking Interspecies Justice in the History of Western Political Thought (working title)

Edited Volume - Call for Contributions 

Deadline: 31 January 2024



Collection Description

With this collection we seek to advance our understanding of interspecies justice and the political obstacles that might stand in the way of its implementation. With the aim of extending theories of justice and related political concepts to animals - and dismantling those that are not flexible enough to encompass animals - the book adopts a view of animals as more than merely objects of moral concern. Rather, the collection will be committed to a view of animals as agentic, self-determining, other-regarding beings, who exist both as individuals and as members of human-nonhuman (political) communities. 

In canonical Western political thought, the role of other-than-human animals has been primarily negative. When not overlooked altogether, animals have been used as foils to demonstrate the supposed moral and intellectual superiority of humans, through being portrayed as lacking in those characteristics supposedly unique to humanity. Prior to the late twentieth century, rarely had the possibility that animals were subjects of justice, or even political actors themselves, been either taken seriously or considered at all. While animals’ place in politics and political theory has recently begun to be addressed in the “political turn” literature, we are still lacking a systemic appraisal of how their relative absence in the traditional Western canon has shaped many of the political ideas, theories, and intuitions that still continue to inform political thinking today. In this book collection, we seek to explore questions centred around animals’ place (or lack thereof) in the history of Western political thought. 

In addressing the question of how animals have been represented in the history of Western political thought, we take seriously how this canon has - rightly - been subject to challenge, criticism, and rejection. As such, in referring to it, we do not seek merely to reproduce and reconfirm it. Indeed, the promotion of a (superior) Western canon in political and intellectual thought has become untenable today. Not only have its oppressive orientation and consequences been called out, but current scholars such as Achille Mbembe, Susan Buck-Morss and Dipesh Chakrabarty, among many others, have also highlighted how both Western/European and non-Western/non-European perspectives have always permeated and shaped each other. The renunciation and questioning of such a Western canon, moreover, has undermined its central cohesiveness from within over recent decades, by producing a wealth of research on differing and dissenting perspectives and opinions in Western political and intellectual thought. Nevertheless, with this canon still dominating political and educational institutions today, its outsized and brutal legacy remains to be reckoned with.

The goal of this project is therefore to invite a re-reading of the Western political canon that asks and interrogates what political and intellectual thoughts, concepts, ideas and movements in western European political and intellectual history might be salvaged, if we are to take nonhuman animals seriously as beings of political concern. In doing so, we remain committed to the notion that the Western tradition is one intellectual tradition among many, yet that it deserves attention in relation to the question of interspecies justice - both because it appears particularly systematic in its denigration of animal others, and because of this tradition’s remaining intellectual and political influence and ongoing role in marginalising nonhuman animals in moral, political, and legal spheres. However, this project necessarily, it should be clear, includes and opens itself up to non-European (postcolonial) adaptations, continuations and reworkings of Western, European perspectives.

With this collection we seek to advance our understanding of interspecies justice and the political obstacles that might stand in the way of its implementation. We seek to highlight the explicit and implicit assumptions that canonical political thinkers have made about animals and how this has impacted on their thought - and the social, political, and economic systems that have arisen on the basis of these ideas. By so doing, we aim to determine whether, and to what extent, a more informed understanding of animals and their capacities might challenge long-held Western notions about justice. Ultimately, we ask ‘what remains?’ of the Western canon (both in relation to a negative and a positive legacy, and both inside and outside of Europe) when we challenge the notion that (certain privileged groups of) humans are both unique and uniquely valuable.

The book also intends to offer constructive accounts of how a more inclusive political theory - one that centres non-human animals alongside human animals - might proceed. One aspect of this constructive effort is to explore what implications key concepts and theories in Western political thought could have in light of what we now know about animals. If, as a number of political theorists have recently come to suggest, animals are to be taken seriously as members of the polis, what might re-readings of Western political theory - as informed by the tenets of interspecies justice - suggest about the obligations that are owed to animals? 

The collection aims to reach a wide audience, not only of those interested in the animal “political turn” and in the history of political thought, but also political theorists, critical theorists, historians, legal scholars, and sociologists. In other words, we seek to reach all those who are interested in the development of political thought, and in considering how animals can inform their own disciplines and the theoretical commitments that uphold them. 

We are aiming for a reputable publisher and have received expressions of interest for the collection from Toronto University Press, Chicago University Press and New York University Press.

Central questions that could be addressed by your contribution:

  • How - if at all - have canonical figures in the Western political tradition conceived of animal agency/autonomy/rationality/personhood/individuality? How does this compare with the conceptualisation of animals in non-Western political thought?
  • How might views of animals’ capacities, as expressed in canonical works of Western political thought, have changed in relation to changing socio-economic periods/conditions (e.g. shift to capitalism; industrialisation; colonialism)?
  • How does the notion of animal (non-)agency feature in the history of Western political thought? What purpose has the notion of animals’ lack of agency served in the theory-building of canonical Western political thinkers? What purpose has this notion served in the oppression and Othering of animals (and ‘animalised’ human groups)?
  • How does the notion of animal agency challenge the political theories of key Western thinkers and the concepts relied upon to build these theories (e.g. justice; the social contract; sovereignty; property; (human) equality; representation; citizenship; rights; responsibility)? To what extent might these theories and concepts be in need of revision in light of our new normative and ontological commitments to animals - or must they be abandoned altogether?
  • How does the recent ‘political turn’ literature challenge assumptions about animal agency that have been found in Western political thought? To what extent does this body of literature rely on or reinforce traditional assumptions about animal (non-)agency?
  • How is the Western political canon and thinking on animals influenced by non-Western ideas? This might include ways in which the canon has constructively adopted ideas as well as where it has shaped itself in rejection of non-Western perspectives.

Instructions for submissions

  • Chapters should be framed and written with the primary goal of accessibility in mind. We seek to speak to a wide range of scholars who may be unfamiliar with animal politics, political theory, and/or the history of political thought. Chapters should find a balance between the contribution of novel arguments/interpretations on the one hand, and introducing readers to debates that may be unfamiliar to them on the other. Contributions should encourage those interested primarily in animal studies to understand the importance of the history of political thought for shaping the ideas and institutions that impact on animals. At the same time, they should encourage those interested primarily in HPT and political theory to see how the inclusion of animals into the scope of political thinking demands a re-assessment of the concepts and arguments that underpin our political systems and institutions. 
  • Please submit a summary of 300-400 words to both editors ([email protected] and [email protected]) by 31 January 2024. Summaries should outline the envisioned content of your paper and how the proposed chapter fits in with the aims/ideas of the collection
  • Please also provide a short bio of 100-150 words with your submission.
  • We will notify you of the outcome of your proposal by 28 February 2024.
  • We expect chapters to be 6000-9000 words long and submitted by 15 June 2024.

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#Animals and political thought