UPCOMING: Today with Denzin and Davies!

Spoiler alert: If you plan to attend the Critical Qualitative Inquiry SIG session this afternoon (US, EST) at UIUC in the ICQI – FYI: the following is Pauliina’s panel speech. 

Pauliina is once again loud about speciesism, this time in a panel of critical qualitative inquirers at the International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry held at the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign). Other members of the panel, called Strategic Next Steps for Critical Qualitative Scholars, include Norman Denzin, Julianne Cheek, Bronwyn Davies and Gaile S. Cannella. For those of you who cannot attend here’s Pauliina’s panel speech.


Combatting Speciesism With Critical Qualitative Inquiry

”I really hate crows. Just hate them.”
”I think all rats deserve to die.”
”I’ve always hated those birds. I don’t know why, but I don’t like them.”

I was at a conference with friends and fellow critical qualitative colleagues who acknowledge the land they stand on as being violently stolen from the people who first inhabited it. Who are clever, compassionate and intelligent in deconstructing and dissecting the legacies of colonialism, and diligently address the implicit mechanisms and manifestations of racism. I was with friends and colleagues who are ready and eager to educate the young for a future in which no human being would be discriminated because of who they are.

”I really hate crows. Just hate them. I don’t know why, but I don’t like them”

The quotes are things said over a lunch break that we took outside. Because of the contrast between what had been said during the sessions inside and what was now being said outside, the lunch break manifested to me as a more profound break – a strange, compelling discontinuity. It would be extremely disturbing for an educated, privileged minority North human being to declare that she hates ”those people”, or wished that ”those people died” – ”I don’t know why, but I just want them dead”. But none of us, including me, called this collective bluff.

This is speciesim; the (often implicit) belief in the inherent superiority of one species over others. It is a deep-rooted belief, attributed widely to be one of the leading causes for complex environmental problems and adjacent social problems. And it seems to be alive and well in the otherwise critical core of the academia.

The roots and mechanisms of speciesism have been speculated and tested to align with many other forms of discrimination and injustice such as sexism and racism, domestic violence and other forms of husbandry and landlordism (John Lupinacci, Joanna Bourke, Donna Haraway, Samantha Hurn, Pattrice Jones). Indeed, an increasing number or scholars (e.g., Bradley Rowe, Cary Wolfe) observe ‘animality’ as a category of social difference that interacts with other categories (namely race, gender, class, sexuality and culture) and thus calls for new conceptualisations of critical scholarship. If and when systems of injustice are mutually dependent, a more-than human/ist intersectionality is needed to address ideologies and hierarchies of domination,.

Val Plumwood identifies an ’illusion of disembeddedness’ as an integral component of anthropocentrism and speciesism. As critical qualitative inquirers we would be the first to address the relationality and embeddedness of every phenomenon. But how could we address our own discontinuities? The fact that we are in the bussiness of exposing implicit mechanisms of discrimination and violence, and simultaneously actively uphold these mechanisms elsewhere. How to unlearn anthropocentrism and speciesism? How to unlearn our hierarchically human centered training? How to retrain ourselves and each other?

Donna Haraway insists that it matters what stories make worlds, as does Richard Rorty who asserts that our moral landscape can be shaped by the stories we tell. As critical qualitative inquirers we know this, and we have learnt to use language and words in a subversive and deconstructive way, á la Judith Butler. What we need to move towards with our already existing skills are the conversations that cross species lines and cast light to our own humanity. To do this Vinciane Despret suggests that we let the nonhumans invite us, that we don’t actively look for something but remain available to be re-trained instead.

When thinking about conversations Tim Ingold asks us to focus on our being in the world as a verb rather than as a noun: to think that we are humaning, rather than being human. This is what he calls conversation. And conversing, or making oneself present in the world is an ability or property of any thing in the world. A dog is not a dog because it looks like a dog, or belongs to a category ‘dog’. These things don’t account for they way in which an individual being is in the world, the way it is making itself present in the world.

Tim says: “It is what it is because what it does. And what it does depends on its position in a society” (Tim includes animals into the notion of sociality and society). And so we need to ask ourselves and others What is the kind of humaning available to us in the positions we hold in our societies? How does it form in relation to pigging, cowing, dogging, crowing, pigeoning – How does our humaning form in relation to other members in our society?

This is a call to actively make Critical Qualitative Inquiry less anthropocentric. To address the implicit speciesism in ourselves and as infecting our scholarship. Not just for the sake of other animals, but also for the sake of other humans.




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