Veganism as Affirmative Biopolitics: Moving Towards a Posthumanist Ethics?

Eva Giraud


This article addresses tensions within the emerging field of animal studies, which have arisen in the process of trying to craft an ethics that is not grounded in humanist rights-frameworks, by--firstly--mapping how these debates are manifested and--secondly--positing Cary Wolfe’s concept of "affirmative biopolitics" as means of overcoming these conceptual rifts. Building on work that attributes these tensions to the influence of posthumanism (Weisberg; Pedersen; Giraud), it argues that the embrace of posthumanist thought has marginalised critique by (misleadingly) framing perspectives such as ecofeminism and critical animal studies as irredeemably humanist (thus of no use in forging a non-anthropocentric ethics). To counter this marginalisation, Wolfe’s recent work on biopolitics is used to create a much-needed conversation between these perspectives. Debates surrounding veganism provide a route into instigating this dialogue, due to it being a contested practice that crystallises the differences between "mainstream" and critical animal studies. This framing of veganism not as a totalising practice but as a form of "affirmative biopolitics," however, is not solely intended to highlight affinities between apparently antagonistic perspectives, but offered as a contribution to broader debates about how a "posthumanist ethics" could be enacted in practice.

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