(Making) Animal Tracks

KAREN HOULE

Abstract


Using an experience of animal perception and tracking as my guide, I track for the reader a recent sequence of readings and writings of mine, but not just my own. I want to show a map of an intellectual meander outward toward animality and toward the question of the ethical status of the non­human animal . With hindsight, we can spy the blind spots, blind corners, of a pursuit, intellectual or otherwise. Through this exercise, I want to try to illustrate how that path of questions about the non-human animal in the first instance permits a suspension of attention to ourselves--the human animal--as contested moral subjects and an oblivion about that suspension. But, in the second instance, the questions posed by the animal, on the meander outward, lead to other questions which in turn make our oblivion so crystal clear that it calls our apparent naiveté and goodwill into question. The result is, literally, a sudden about-face which (re)contests ourselves--the human animal--as moral subjects. An implication of this paper is to call into question our adequacy, as epistemic agents, to the task of what feminist epistemologists call "critical self-reflection"; that is, knowing oneself more fully by perceiving what one is up to in ones line of questioning, catching oneself unawares in particular. My experience of tracking an animal and then finding myself suddenly being tracked by that animal casts what I hope is a useful doubt on the capacity of the isolated rational agent to accomplish a making-visible of what is invisible about her own perceptions; that is, reveals the very real limits of her evidence-gathering capacities. I want above all to argue that our own blind spots are disabled and critical self-reflexivity becomes possible, not by a willing and able isolated self but by a strange-making encounter wit h a non-self who stops us in our tracks. The final section of the paper focuses on two kinds of non-selfs who 'summons' us, and our capacities to hear one of these summons more readily than the other. It asks whether the question of the fetus is perhaps like the question of the animal, yet, even more than that of the animal, one that still cannot be heard or seen

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22329/p.v2i2.397

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