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French Thinking about Animals

French Thinking about Animals

Louisa Mackenzie
Stephanie Posthumus
Series: The Animal Turn
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    French Thinking about Animals
    Book Description:

    Bringing together leading scholars from Belgium, Canada, France, and the United States,French Thinking about Animalsmakes available for the first time to an Anglophone readership a rich variety of interdisciplinary approaches to the animal question in France. While the work of French thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari has been available in English for many years,French Thinking about Animalsopens up a much broader cross-cultural dialogue within animal studies. These original essays, many of which have been translated especially for this volume, draw on anthropology, ethology, geography, history, legal studies, phenomenology, and philosophy to interrogate human-animal relationships. They explore the many ways in which animals signify in French history, society, and intellectual history, illustrating the exciting new perspectives being developed about the animal question in the French-speaking world today. Built on the strength and diversity of these contributions,French Thinking about Animalsdemonstrates the interdisciplinary and internationalism that are needed if we hope to transform the interactions of humans and nonhuman animals in contemporary society.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-437-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    Is there a French way of asking the “animal question”? First of all, we might ask: what is the animal question exactly?

    Referring back to the first uses of the expression, we can respond that the animal question was principally a question of animal ethics: what moral responsibility do humans have towards non-human animals? Asked first in English, the animal question began emerging in the early nineteenth century. In an 1829 treatise on horses, John Lawrence uses the question as a section title to echo a question that he had asked forty years earlier in his “first essay on the...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    French Thinking about Animalsexplores the many ways in which animals signify in French history, society, and intellectual history. It brings together scholars from Belgium, Canada, France, and the United States, nine of whom wrote in French and were translated, from a variety of disciplines. They have in common that their work contributes to what might broadly—but not unproblematically, as we shall see—be considered an emerging “French animal studies.” Some of our authors are leading Francophone authorities on animal histories, philosophies, rights, and behaviors, but have not to date been translated into English. Others have been translated, are...

  5. Part I. Animal Histories

    • Building an Animal History
      (pp. 3-14)

      Since the field of animal studies has opened up, the human and social sciences, in North America and in Europe, have developed an almost exclusive interest in the human side of this subject, examining human uses, practices, and most particularly human representations of animals, in part because of a certain scholarly infatuation with cultural studies since the 1980s.¹ Having used these approaches myself many times, I now feel they are insufficient because they have created and maintained a blind spot at their center—that of animals as feeling, acting, responding beings, who have their own initiatives and reactions. Scholars have...

    • A Tale of Three Chameleons: The Animal between Science and Literature in the Age of Louis XIV
      (pp. 15-30)

      The subjects of this chapter are three chameleons in Paris and Versailles represented in two different narratives early in the personal reign of Louis XIV (1661–1715). The first was the chameleon described in late 1668 by the architect, physician, and founding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences Claude Perrault (1613–1688), and featured in theMémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux(1671). The other two were the subjects of theHistoire de deux Chaméléons, a work of literary naturalism written by thesalonnièreand novelist Mademoiselle de Scudéry (1607–1701) in 1673, and published in the...

    • The Colonial Zoo
      (pp. 31-46)

      Zoos are contact zones, areas of cultural juxtaposition and interpenetration where different animal species are put on display less to replicate any natural orderings than to confirm human conceptions of our mastery over wild nature. In that sense, the relationship between human and non-human animals remains fundamentally colonial. This paper will examine how the French colonial project intersected with the zoo that was created in Vincennes as part of the 1931 Exposition Coloniale. My premise throughout this paper will be that zoos exist primarily for human purposes, not for the benefit of animals. Bob Mullan and Garry Marvin put it...

  6. Part II. Animal Philosophies and Representations

    • The Unexpected Resemblance between Dualism and Continuism, or How to Break a Philosophical Stalemate
      (pp. 49-60)

      Let us focus first on the term itself: “animal philosophy.” Although the syntax of this expression, whose meaning we aim to better understand, may be disputable,¹ it is useful despite its shortcomings, especially when compared to the more exact terminology “philosophy of the animal.” In this latter expression, the use of the singular “animal” to designate a multitude of animal species that often have nothing in common has become contentious. Hence Jacques Derrida’s critique of the singular form—“The Animal, as they say”²—the official designation passed down from age to age that allowed human subjects to reduce and undervalue...

    • Like the Fingers of the Hand: Thinking the Human in the Texture of Animality
      (pp. 61-74)

      European thought has traditionally addressed the question of animality in terms of a hygienic border, the problem being how best to characterize what distinguishes humans from animals—that is to say thepropre de l’hommeor that which is “proper to the human”—namely, a characteristic that humans alone possess and that so differentiates them from other animals that it pushes them beyond animality. Such a notion is highly problematic. Searching for competencies that one would find only inHomo sapiensis a more reasonable project, on the condition, however, of being sensitive to the pitfalls of the concepts mobilized...

    • Animality and Contemporary French Literary Studies: Overview and Perspectives
      (pp. 75-88)

      Whether reflecting on human animality and the interactions between humans and animals in literature, questioning the potential for creative language to express non-human affects and relationships to the world, examining the reconfigurations of anthropocentrism, or even contemplating “the end of human exceptionalism,”¹ collective research on animality in literature in France has flourished since the mid-2000s. The scope of this research is unprecedented, as evidenced by the “Animots” research project that will be discussed later. The novelty of this research is not only its focus on the animal question, which has long been conspicuously absent from literary criticism, but also its...

  7. Part III. Animal Intimacies

    • Why “I Had Not Read Derrida”: Often Too Close, Always Too Far Away
      (pp. 91-104)

      There are, wrote Jacques Derrida in 1997, “two grand forms of theoretical or philosophical treatise regarding the animal… In the first place there are texts signed by people who have no doubt seen, observed, analyzed, reflected on the animal, but who have never beenseen seenby the animal. Their gaze has never intersected with that of an animal directed at them (forget about their being naked)… That category of discourse, texts, and signatories (those who have never been seen seen by an animal that addressed them) is by far the one that occurs most abundantly. It is probably what...

    • Chercher la chatte: Derrida’s Queer Feminine Animality
      (pp. 105-120)

      This essay situates some of the dilemmas of the effort to think with non-human animate being in the Western philosophical tradition by examining the posthumous work of Jacques Derrida,The Animal That Therefore I Am.¹ I argue for the usefulness of Derrida’s work on animality for crafting a queer ethics of relating to the living in general, just as his notion of spectrality offered a way to grapple with the traumatic persistence of (historical) affect in the present. Nevertheless, even as Derrida reaches toward a referent by insisting on the particularity and singularity ofhis(female) cat, what he animates...

    • Paternalism or Legal Protection of Animals? Bestiality and the French Judicial System
      (pp. 121-132)

      Even an admittedly summary analysis of legal rules can lead us to distinguish two different forms of paternalism. The first seeks to punish certain behaviors considered harmful that individuals inflict upon themselves. In so doing, the state limits the individual’s powers of self-regulation, extending an old legal tradition that dates back to the late Middle Ages. Critiques of such measures mostly focus on the fact that, for the most part, they do not recognize that people live or die according to their own values. A critique of paternalism is thus also a reminder of the axiological pluralism of liberal democratic...

  8. Part IV. Animals and Environment

    • On Being Living Beings: Renewing Perceptions of Our World, Our Society, and Ourselves
      (pp. 135-148)

      It may seem curious to answer a call for papers on the animal question in French thought by proposing an article about an awareness that goes beyond the animal, an awareness of being living beings that happens, in my view, through aesthetic experience. This is due on the one hand to my training as an agricultural engineer, with a background in the sciences where students learn to apply techniques to transform the living world,¹ and on the other hand to my experience as an environmental activist, where part of my professional life has consisted in popularizing environmental issues by combining...

    • The Greenway: A Study of Shared Animal/Human Mobility
      (pp. 149-162)

      Since 2007, following the so-calledGrenelle 2 de l’environnement(the second Grenelle “round table” on the environment), greenways have achieved stunning success in France.¹ Integral to the rapidly growing science of landscape ecology, greenways form a mesh of planted spaces within urban environments. One of their main functions is the restoration of biodiversity (of both plant and animal species) that in turn provides more genetic resources and a greater variety of ecosystems. The creation and maintenance of greenways is causing our conception of metropolitan spaces to evolve, and forcing us to rethink how we represent and understand animals within the...

    • Wild, Domestic, or Technical: What Status for Animals?
      (pp. 163-178)

      In philosophy, the animal has often served as a foil for the human. Human specificity has largely been constructed in contrast to the animal, most significantly since the rise of Western modernity, which radically separated the human from nature and made the animal an object. Several contemporary philosophers are now interested in the animal in and of itself, in its capacity to suffer, and in its relationship to a world that it is capable of creating. The issue of the status of the animal has since given rise to a number of varying responses. The present article will analyze various...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-192)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 193-196)
  11. Index
    (pp. 197-210)