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The animal gaze. Animal Subjectives in Southern African narratives

The animal gaze. Animal Subjectives in Southern African narratives

Applys to our understanding of our own identity, our own subjectivity, and of our relations to other people as well as to other animals
Woodward, Wendy (ed.)
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978-1-86814-462-4
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Editor: Wendy Woodward
Publisher: Witwatersrand University Press
Johannesburg, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-86814-462-4
Paperback, 15x22 cm, 192 pages


Description:

Many humans do not regard animals as complex beings. Instead, they objectify animals, relate to them as 'pets', or see them simply as spectacles of beauty or wildness.

By contrast, the southern African writers whose work is explored in The animal gaze, including Olive Schreiner, Zakes Mda, Yvonne Vera, Eugene N. Marais, J.M. Coetzee, Luis Bernardo Honwana, Michiel Heyns, Marlene van Niekerk and Linda Tucker, represents animals as richly individual subjects.

The animals - including cattle, horses, birds, lions, leopards, baboons, dogs, cats and a whale - experience complex emotions and have agency, intentionality and morality, as well as an ability to recognize and fear death. When animals are acknowledged as subjects in this way, then the animal gaze and the human response encapsulate an interspecies communication of kinship, rather than confirming a human sense of superiority.

This volume goes beyond Jacques Derrida's notion of the animal gaze which still has animal as the 'absolute other', and suggests a re-conceptualising of animals as 'anothers.' The animal gaze engages with the writings of Jacques Derrida, J.M. Coetzee, Val Plumwood and Martha C. Nussbaum, as it brings together Animal studies, ethics, literary studies and African traditional thought, including shamanism, in a way that compels the reader to think differently about nonhuman animals and human relationship with them.


About the author:

Wendy Woodward is a Professor in the English Department at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town. She is widely published in the fields of gender and colonialism, and Animal Studies.
Introduction:


Review:

Margaret Daymond, University of KwaZulu-Natal:
This book is not just about animals (in the conventional sense of 'animals'), for the issues it raises apply to our understanding of our own identity, our own subjectivity, and of our relations to other people as well as to other animals. As such, the book offers important insights, challenges and stimulation to our thinking about the rights we claim for ourselves and grant to others.


Contents:

Acknowledgements
Introduction: The animal gaze
Animals and African knowledges
Feline predators and sacred spaces
Baboons, colonial discourses and moral agency
The emotional lives of dogs
Dogs in alliances and as embodied souls
Whales, clones and sacrificial nature
Conclusion: Beyond the endings
Notes
Select bibliography
Index


The animal gaze:

This book is about looking - the ways an animal looks at a human and how a human responds to such a gaze. Animals watch humans constantly, monitoring us for whatever comfort, affection or threat we might embody. In turn, we look at them, regarding them as spectacles of beauty and wildness or relating to them as fellow occupants of our homes. But the kind of animal gaze examined and explored in this book is different. It has more substance and significance.

It is a gaze, initiated by the animal, meditative in its quietness and stillness and which compels a response on the part of the human, as it contradicts any assumed superiority of the human over the nonhuman animal. It is the gaze of a being who actively claims his or her own subjectivity, looking at another who takes her human subjectivity as a given. A cat may look at a queen, then, as the saying goes, but does the queen look back? In this scenario, if the cat's gaze demands it, then the queen has no choice but to return the animal's gaze.

In acknowledging the cat as a subject capable of looking at her, the queen is, implicitly, questioning or even undermining the typical sense of human superiority over an animal as well as decentring the human self. In doing so she challenges the human-self and animal-other divide, by responding to the cat as a fellow being, rather than as an inferior one. Such moments of interspecies communication recur in the southern African writing I consider in this book. They are moments which do not take place in a romanticised, timeless zone but in a historicised culture which animals inhabit as humans do.

Western philosophy has only recently been able to accept that such an interchange may be possible. As Peter Singer points out, philosophers throughout '[wjestern civilization' thought of nonhuman animals as 'beings of no ethical significance, or at best, of very minor significance' (2004: xi). For example, Rene Descartes, the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and scientist, experimented on live dogs in the assured belief that they were unfeeling machines who could not suffer.

In his wake, philosophers denigrated 'the animal' or animality until the utilitarian philosophers, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick 'insisted that the suffering of animals mattered in itself (Singer 2004: xi). Even so, human concerns have predominated over those of animals. Only in the last thirty or so years, as Singer confirms, has the traditional western view of nonhuman animals begun to change:

[Philosophers from a variety of ethical traditions] have argued that the interests of animals deserve equal consideration with the similar interests of humans, or that animals have rights. They have sought to bridge the ethical gap that has hitherto been perceived to exist between members of our own species and members of other species (2004: xi, emphasis added).

Important as the discussion on animal rights certainly is for the lives of animals, my purpose in reading southern African narratives is to elucidate and, I hope, to contribute to debates which focus on ethics and the intersubjective relationship between human and nonhuman animals.

SHIFTS IN TRADITIONAL WESTERN VIEWS OF NONHUMAN ANIMALS

In his 2002 essay, 'The Animal that therefore I am (More to Follow)', Jacques Derrida contradicts Cartesian philosophies of animals as creatures lacking sentience or feeling, and posits human ontologies or theories of being in response to the gaze of an animal. His essay has been central to my practice of reading. Comically, the naked Derridean persona is embarrassed by the consciousness of his nudity because of the gaze of his small cat.

She not only embodies a specular purpose like a mirror, but has a point of view and a self, although she is without 'the knowledge of self (374). Derrida's cat, in his assessment, is not just 'an exemplar of the species' but a specific 'irreplaceable living being' (378).

In his essay, Derrida reframes the Genesis myth so that the animal embodies a moral agent who brings the human to awareness of good and evil rather than an unthinking creature who is ultimately responsible, like the Edenic serpent, for human shame. The animal looks back, which is what, Derrida reminds us, 'philosophy perhaps forgets' (380), for in having the cat responding rather than reacting and being capable of addressing the human, Derrida contradicts philosophers from Aristotle to Lacan (400).

Literally, then, a cat can look at a philosopher which stimulates his questions about (human) being in the gaze of the animal. The'bottomless gaze' (381) of the animal demonstrates 'the naked truth of every gaze, given that that truth allows me to see and be seen through the eyes of the other, in the seeing and not just seen eyes of the other' (381). The cat is agentive, with her observant eyes, and has brought the speaker to an awareness of himself through his acceptance of the point of view of the cat.

Derrida goes on to suggest that there are two possibilities: discourse by those who have never countenanced the possibility that an animal could look at them in a way which challenges their ideas of subjectivity (382); or discourse by those who (potentially only prophets or poets) can imagine engaging with the 'address' of an animal. The Derridean (playful?) provocative claim that he knows of no such poets or prophets, implicitly suggesting that they cannot exist, is a spurious one.

Most of the texts which I discuss in this book attest to writers who have imagined such interchanges. Still, Derrida's consideration of the animal gaze which might (or might not) bring the human to a consciousness of being 'near what they call animal' (380) is central to this discussion in its profound challenge to the tenets of humanism or how being human has been imagined. Whether the gaze is literal or metaphoric is unimportant: the central issues here are whether the human acknowledges subjective kinship with animals and what potential emerges.

KINSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND ANIMALS

Even Jacques Derrida's commentary has its limitations, however, in relation to the subjectivity of animals. Instead of the ontological shame that is elicited by the gaze of the Derridean cat, I would like to suggest further and more relevant significances for this gaze.

Derrida is inspiring, but the cat remains the 'absolute other' (380), whereas my reading of southern African fiction suggests that many writers imagine kinship between humans and animals so that their knowledge productions become 'relational epistemologies', a useful phrase from Carol J. Adams (1995: 155), referring to related theories of knowledge. [...]


Index:

Abram, David 20, 94
Adams, Carol J 3, 133, 135
agency (of animals) 3, 30, 52, 60, 62, 69,
80, 83, 86, 91-92, 98, 104, 106, 112,
131, 139, 149, 159-161
moral agency 66-68, 70-72, 77-78, 83,
90
Allen, Paula Gunn 20, 160
animal subjectivity 5, 7-8, 11, 13-16,
28-29, 46, 55, 66, 78, 88, 90-93, 100,
104, 130, 151, 165
death 7, 9, 13, 32, 34-39, 41, 71, 89,
107-109, 114-117, 127, 131, 137,
140-141, 160-162
dignity 11, 124
intelligence 7, 14, 29,42, 69-72, 79,
85-87,91,93,98, 104, 106, 110,
111-117, 123, 126, 131, 133, 141
intentionality 7-8, 30,42, 51, 63, 80,
87, 91-92, 98, 106, 112, 128, 137,
139, 149, 153, 157-158, 161
sentience 2, 6, 7, 9, 12, 16, 18, 33, 47,
66, 90, 106, 115, 130, 135, 137-138,
149-150, 155
Animal Studies Group 9
Animal Voice 12
animals, rights of 2, 9, 11-12, 67-68, 78,
81,90, 136, 138, 166
abuse of 14, 40, 66, 115, 134-135
Animal Care and Protection Policy 12
Animal Protection Act 10, 12
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals (SPCA) 9, 11
anthropocentrism 5-6, 22, 42, 47, 87,
120, 132
anthropomorphism/humanisation of
animals 14-15, 61, 70, 84, 91, 93,
112, 121, 123, 128
apartheid 21-23, 47-48, 65-66, 76-77,
81-82, 90, 92-93, 109, 111, 122, 130
post-apartheid 11, 13-14, 47, 66, 76,
90, 120
Ardrey, Robert 70
Aristotle 2, 6
Atterton, Peter 6
Attwell, David 13
baboons 7, 13, 15, 17, 49, 59, 65-92,
117, 119, 151-152, 166
Baker, Steve
Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity
and Representation 15, 80, 87
Balcombe, Jonathan
Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and
the Nature of Feeling Good 5-6, 93
Basson, Dr Wouter 66
becoming-animal 4, 17, 54-56, 59-60,
68, 72-75, 87, 119-120, 132-133, 156
mother-child connections 73-75
Bekoff, Mark
The Emotional Lives of Animals 5-6,
15, 68, 93
Bentham, Jeremy 2, 6
Berger, John 33, 118, 138, 166
Bergson, Henri 42
birds 37-42, 54, 144
Bosman, Herman Charles
'Unto Dust' 18, 93, 109, 116
Buchan, John
Presterjohn 18,94, 108
Buddhist tradition 8, 130, 137
Calarco, Matthew 6
Carruthers, Jane 20
Cartesian philosophy of negation 3, 7,
50,144-145
human dominance over animals/
nature 118-119, 129, 131,
144-145, 159
Cartwright, Justin
White Lightning 18, 67, 76-77,
82-90, 92, 120, 128, 160, 165-166
cattle 19, 21-34, 41, 43, 54, 166
Cattle Killing Movement 21-22, 24,
26, 33-34
and creation myths 19, 32
lobola 27, 31
Nongqawuse, prophecies of 21-22
chimpanzees 5
Christian/Judaeo-Christian tradition
20, 31, 96, 128, 130, 137, 140, 160,
162,164
Genesis myth 2, 20-21
Coetzee, JM
Age of Iron 18,93, 112-114
Disgrace 13, 18, 117, 120, 128-141,
160, 165
The Lives of Animals 6-9, 13, 31-33,
74, 86, 115, 118, 126, 131-133, 138,
140, 149-150
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan 31, 137
colonialism 19-25, 34-38,40, 43, 54, 65,
70, 75-76, 82, 89, 92-94, 101-102,
106-109, 116, 135-136, 147, 159
post-colonialism 13, 23-24, 37-38, 45,
67, 76, 83, 89, 91
pre-colonialism 20, 24-25, 37, 166
commodification/exploitation of animals
6, 9, 27, 30, 32-33, 41, 47, 49-51,
111-112, 118, 136, 139, 152
canned hunting 46, 48-49, 64
eco-tourism 4, 47-50, 53, 62, 73, 150,
154
factory farming 150
Conrad, Joseph 21
Convention for International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES) 66
Copeland, Marion 16
Couto, Mia
Voices Made Night 17, 19, 21,23, 30,
37-40, 42-43,45,85, 159
Darwin, Charles 15, 68, 94
Deleuze, Gilles 4, 54-56, 84,119,128,
156
Derrida, Jacques
'The Animal that therefore I am
(More to Follow)' 2-4, 6, 11, 20,
30-32, 56, 85, 89, 92, 115-116, 150,
153, 159, 161, 165, 167
'Aporias: Dying-Awaiting (One
Another at) the 'Limits of Truth' 6,
162
'"Eating Well," or the Calculation of
the Subject: An Interview with
Jacques Derrida' 7, 9, 87, 165
Descartes, Rene 1, 7, 87
Desmond, Jane 47, 49, 150
dogs 1-2, 13, 18, 91-141, 153, 165-166
Africanis 107, 110
as pets 84, 86, 92, 117-128, 140, 167
in discourses of race 92-93, 103-104,
106-107, 109-112, 122-123
Doniger, Wendy 8, 124
donkeys 143, 146, 150-152
Douglas, Mary 36
eco-centric 24,41
eco-psychology/philosophy 4-5
ecological
consciousness 41-42, 79, 83,
160-161, 166
destruction/global warming
143-148, 150, 153, 163-164, 166-167
imperialism 21, 24
indigenous/traditional ecology 21, 23,
164
elephants 15,17, 45-46,48, 50, 52
ethology 5, 68, 93
hedonic 5
feline predators
leopards 17,45-46,49-52, 59-61,
63-64, 67, 72
lions 17, 38,45-46, 48, 50-59, 62-64,
67, 69, 72, 117
violence of predation 48-50
Fitzpatrick, Sir Percy
Jock of the Bushveld 13,18, 93,
102-103-109, 112, 116, 166
Gaita, Raimond 115, 139, 149
Garber, Marjorie 92, 119, 128
gender 25, 68-70, 72-73, 77, 93, 96,98
animalisation of women 40
femininity 101-102
masculinity 48, 101-104, 108,
114-116, 134
paternalism 71
stereotypes 72
Gordimer, Nadine
Burger's Daughter 14
Gordon, Cosmo Duff 7
Gordon, Rob 106, 122, 134
Gowdy, Barbara 17
Guattari, Felix 4, 54-56, 84, 119,128, 156
Haraway, Donna 17, 50, 65, 73, 76, 117,
145
Harlow, Barbara 13
Hearne, Vicky 15, 105, 118
Heyns, Michiel
The Reluctant Passenger 18,67,76-82,
85, 87, 90
homo-centric 24
Honwana, Luis Bernardo
'We killed Mangy-Dog' 13, 17-18, 93,
109, 114-117, 120, 136
horses 7, 21, 35-37, 54, 99-100, 105, 118
Hughes, Ted 126,149
human-animal continuum 5, 7-8, 16,
21,23,25,34, 42, 78, 150, 165
human-self/animal-other dualism 4, 19,
33, 38, 42-43, 45,47, 54-55, 57, 60,
69, 76,81,93, 100-101, 126, 131,
139, 145, 156-157, 159-163, 166-167
absolute other 3, 32, 51, 57, 150, 167
hyperexclusion/hyperseparation 1, 8-
9, 14,47, 57, 69, 79, 81, 83, 85, 89,
102-103, 131
human subjectivity 1, 6, 16, 74, 79,
84-86, 89, 165-166
decentring of 1, 6, 84,117
humanism 3, 6, 49, 51, 64, 84, 86, 89, 92
identity
appropriation of 5, 20, 49-50, 60-63,
80, 84, 159-160, 162
blurring of self and other 3-5, 69
cultural/traditional 10-11, 17,24
deconstruction of 45-46, 51, 82, 85,
120, 124
deterritorialised 4, 54, 58, 73, 120,
126-128, 131, 133, 140, 145, 156, 166
human 87,91-92, 109
master consciousness 5, 20, 35, 66,
130, 141, 145, 160
racialised 9, 65, 75-77, 81, 88, 90,
92-93, 101-102, 106-107, 109-112,
122-125, 135
insects
butterflies/moths 143, 148-150,
158-159
praying mantis 150, 158
intersubjective/interspecies relationships
1-3, 28, 37, 46, 50, 58, 76, 84, 87-89,
91,98, 110-111, 117-119, 121,
127-128, 131, 155-156, 166-167
interconnectedness/Universal Unity 4,
53, 59, 96, 100-101, 108-109, 132
relational ontologies 2-5, 16, 19,
31-32,35,41,83,92, 115, 119-120,
125, 128, 130-131, 136, 157
sexualisation of 50-51, 73, 78-79, 125,
156-160, 166
Irigaray, Luce 150
Jabavu, Noni
The Ochre People 17, 19, 21, 23,
29-31,45, 110
Jahme, Carole 73, 79
Jordan, AC
Tales from Southern Africa 20,154,164
Kapleau, Roshi Philip 137
Khosa, Maria 7, 52, 54-57, 62-63
kinship between human and nonhuman
animals 3, 7, 14, 17, 45, 59, 64, 68,
70, 84, 105, 140, 143
kinship, traditional African beliefs
about 19-23,27-28,31,34, 38,
40-43, 45, 52, 67, 76, 85, 87, 144,
163, 166-167
amaXhosa 19, 21-22, 24, 26, 30-32,
34-36,41,54, 166
ancestors 20-24, 26, 53-57
Australian Aborigine 155
Khoikhoi/San 24, 26, 154, 167
ownership, concept of 25, 36, 118,
120, 130, 136
shamanism 4-5, 7, 17-18, 38, 45,
52-63, 117, 141, 143, 156, 160,
163-164, 166
Shangaan 52, 54, 56
Shona 52-53, 67
Kristeva, Julia 42, 73
Kruuk, Hans 48-50
language/communication 6-8, 15, 52,
62,71,74, 105, 114, 119, 124, 151,
155-158, 160, 162-163, 166
animal silence 6-7, 40, 59
Lawrence, Elizabeth 36
Levinas, Emmanuel 155-156, 159
Linzey, Andrew 31, 137
Livingstone, Douglas 29
logocentrism 6
magic realism 23, 30
Marais, Eugene
My Friends the Baboons 17, 66,
69-72, 74-75, 78, 83, 90
The Soul of the Ape 13, 17, 66, 68-72,
74-76, 78
Marais, Michael 83, 86
McNeill, John 35
Mda, Zakes
The Heart of Redness 7, 17, 19, 21-26,
33-37, 40-43, 45, 54, 110, 120, 144,
153
The Whale Caller 7, 13, 18, 143-145,
154-166
meerkats 15
Mhlongo, Elmon 46, 52
Midgley, Mary 14-16, 33, 84, 118, 133,
137
Mkhize, Isidore Bandile 47
modernism 22
modernity 9, 13, 20, 28, 32 59, 67, 73,
78, 80, 85, 87, 127, 143-144, 164-167
postmodernism 8, 144, 154. 164
Monbiot, George 16
Mphahlele Es'kia
'Mrs Plum' 18, 93, 109-112, 116
Murphy, Patrick 3, 24
Mutwa, Credo 7, 46, 51-52, 54, 55,
57-58, 64, 67
Landsman, Anne
The Devil's Chimney 18, 125
national parks/private game reserves
48, 50
Amboseli 49
Kruger National Park 46-48
Londolozi 46, 63
Luangwa 61
Mosdene 69
Timbavati 46, 56
nature, scientific manipulation of
clones 143-148, 151-154, 164
Ndebele, Njabulo
'Let's Declare 2007 "The Year of the
Dog"' 16, 18, 134-135
'The Prophetess' 18, 112, 116
Nussbaum, Martha C
Frontiers of Justice: Disability,
Nationality, Species Membership
8, 11-13, 15,67-68, 78, 84, 89,
136, 162
Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence
of Emotions 93-94, 97, 112, 116
Palmer, Clare 136
Patterson, Gareth 48
Payne, Katy
Silent Thunder: The Hidden Voice of
Elephants 17, 45-47, 49-53, 57-58,
60,62-64, 67, 69, 117
Pechey, Laura Charlotte 83
phallogocentrism/order of phallus 9-10,
42, 165
Pickover, Michele
Animal Rights in South Africa 9,66,77
Plumwood, Val
Feminism and the Mastery of Nature
5,20, 42,47, 58, 127, 159-160
Poland, Marguerite
Recessional for Grace 17, 19, 21-23,
27-29,31,34,38,43,45, 150
Pratt, Mary Louise 35
representation (of animals as subjects)
8, 13, 15-17, 19, 21,43, 52, 60, 70,
77-81, 83-85, 87, 89, 91, 93-95, 97,
104, 109-110, 112-113, 115-116, 123,
127-129, 131-132, 150-152, 165-168
Rodd, Rosemary 121
Rooke, Daphne
Mittee 18, 86
Rorke, Melina
Her Amazing Experiences in the
Stormy Nineties of South-African
History 18,93, 101-102
Rosenthal, Jane
Souvenir 18, 143-154
sacrifice/killing of animals 9-13,
31-33,82,87-89, 114-116, 120,
128-141, 144-145, 152, 158,
160-162, 164-166
meat-eating 9-10, 33, 133-134, 165
Tony Yengeni's bull 9-10, 15, 32-33,
153, 160
Saks, Karen 49, 69, 72-76, 87, 90
Sapolsky, Robert
A Primate's Memoir: Love, Death and
Baboons in East Africa 79-80
Schreiner, Olive
'The Adventures of Master Towser'
93-95
The Story of an African Farm 13,18,
93,95-101, 103-104, 108-109,
112-113, 116, 166
self-reflexivity 50-51, 59, 71, 75, 82, 152
Serpell, James 118
Shapiro, Kenneth 16
Singer, Peter 1-2
Smuts, Barbara 59, 74-75, 87, 118-120,
131, 140
soul/spirituality (of animals) 3,4, 6,
19-22, 26-28, 33, 35-39, 40-41, 45,
49-50, 53-54, 56-59, 62, 70, 100,
114-118, 128, 137-138, 140-141, 144,
157, 160, 165
South African Constitution 11, 18, 67,
77, 80, 90
Spencer, Herbert 96
Spretnak, Charlene 53, 59, 62
Swart, Sandra 8,91-92, 106
Taylor, Jane 138
textuality 8
intertextuality 83-85
therianthropy (shape-shifting) 40, 54
Tiffin, Helen 61
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
66
Tucker, Linda
Mystery of the White Lions 4, 7, 17,
45-47, 49-57-60, 62-64, 67, 69, 73,
89, 117
unknowability of animals 29, 82, 85, 87,
150, 165
van Houten, Gillian
The Way of the Leopard 17, 45-47,
50-54, 57, 59-61, 63-64, 67, 73
van Niekerk, Marlene
Triomf7, 18, 117, 120-128, 141, 166
van Riel, Fransje
Life with Darwin and Other Baboons
17, 49, 66, 69, 72-76, 87, 90
van Sittert, Lance 91-92, 107
Varty, John 46, 52
Vera.Yvonne
Nehanda 17, 19, 21, 23-25, 35-38,
42-43,45, 54
vivisection 66, 77-79, 81, 90
Western philosophical tradition/natural
imperialism 1-2, 4, 6, 43
whales 7,13, 18, 38-39, 143-144,
154-167
'wilderness' 4, 47, 49-50, 64, 158, 160
'wildness' 17, 20-21, 37, 64-65, 83, 155,
157, 167
Winterson, Jeanette
'The 24-Hour Dog' 18, 118, 141
Wood, David 58, 87, 89, 90, 167
Yeld, John 66