The human/animal divide has been theorised in most Western philosophical tradition as a difference involving the human capacity for logos, meant as the capacity to speak and, especially, of possessing reason; something that animals supposedly lack. Through this distinction, the human has been ontologically elevated to a privileged position – one that entails the subjugation of the animal – and the animal is reduced to an irrational, mere instinctual being. The historical construction of the Western cogito as the all-rationalist white Euro-American healthy and wealthy male as the privileged subject of knowledge has similarly relegated other subjects – thought of as less than human – to the same subordinate position. Therefore – associated with animals – women, queer and black people have often been thought of as irrational, as a way of justifying various forms of violence perpetrated against them, to include the attempt of depriving them of their rights. Bearing in mind that not only are bodies shaped by discourse but that their material reality can be changed by altering the discourse around them, and drawing on a methodological background influenced by Queer Studies, Critical Race Theory, Animal Studies and Metaphor Theory, this essay intends to explore how in her 2002 short story ‘Shell’ the Scottish writer Jackie Kay retrieves the legacy of the trope of the animalization of the black African in Western cultures and rewrites it as a way of conjuring up new modalities of human existence. The slow metamorphosis of the protagonist Doreen – a corpulent black lesbian woman and mother – into a tortoise enables her to reject the chrononormative order characteristic of Western contemporary racialised heteropatriarchy to give voice to otherwise silenced forms of the black queer existence. It is precisely her becoming-animal that enables Doreen to regain her right to the logos – meant not only as the capacity to recover her voice but, in a Derridean sense, of (re)writing her life – therefore showing the possibility of funding a new humanism based on different principles.

Rethinking the Human: The Use of Animal Metaphors to Language the Utopianism of the Black Queer Existence

Emilio Amideo
2021

Abstract

The human/animal divide has been theorised in most Western philosophical tradition as a difference involving the human capacity for logos, meant as the capacity to speak and, especially, of possessing reason; something that animals supposedly lack. Through this distinction, the human has been ontologically elevated to a privileged position – one that entails the subjugation of the animal – and the animal is reduced to an irrational, mere instinctual being. The historical construction of the Western cogito as the all-rationalist white Euro-American healthy and wealthy male as the privileged subject of knowledge has similarly relegated other subjects – thought of as less than human – to the same subordinate position. Therefore – associated with animals – women, queer and black people have often been thought of as irrational, as a way of justifying various forms of violence perpetrated against them, to include the attempt of depriving them of their rights. Bearing in mind that not only are bodies shaped by discourse but that their material reality can be changed by altering the discourse around them, and drawing on a methodological background influenced by Queer Studies, Critical Race Theory, Animal Studies and Metaphor Theory, this essay intends to explore how in her 2002 short story ‘Shell’ the Scottish writer Jackie Kay retrieves the legacy of the trope of the animalization of the black African in Western cultures and rewrites it as a way of conjuring up new modalities of human existence. The slow metamorphosis of the protagonist Doreen – a corpulent black lesbian woman and mother – into a tortoise enables her to reject the chrononormative order characteristic of Western contemporary racialised heteropatriarchy to give voice to otherwise silenced forms of the black queer existence. It is precisely her becoming-animal that enables Doreen to regain her right to the logos – meant not only as the capacity to recover her voice but, in a Derridean sense, of (re)writing her life – therefore showing the possibility of funding a new humanism based on different principles.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11574/208537
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