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Species MattersHumane Advocacy and Cultural Theory$
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Michael Lundblad and Marianne DeKoven

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231152839

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231152839.001.0001

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Consequences of Humanism, or, Advocating What?

Consequences of Humanism, or, Advocating What?

(p.49) 3 Consequences of Humanism, or, Advocating What?
Species Matters

Paola Cavalieri

Columbia University Press

This chapter critiques the humanism that is often implicit in mainstream versions of “humane advocacy.” Using theoretical frames of reference different from Jacques Derrida's posthumanism, it explores the politically progressive discourses of Holocaust studies, disability studies, feminism, and Marxism and how they depend on—and are even founded on—a distinction of the human from the animal. The chapter argues that these discourses invoke the common humanity of oppressed human groups, over against the subhumanity, or animality, attributed to them by those who denigrate or seek to destroy them. It asserts that this politically progressive activism is therefore inherently humanist, and that humanism itself is foundationally defined by its distinction between humans and animals: that this distinction is the “disavowed underside of humanism.” It also discusses dehumanization within the context of humanism and in relation to to the attitudes of some of the main intrahuman progressive areas: the movement against ethnic discrimination and genocide, feminism, the disability rights movement, and the leftists.

Keywords:   humanism, humane advocacy, dehumanization, feminism, Marxism, animality, humans, animals, posthumanism, progressive activism

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