Witnessing Animal Others: Bearing Witness, Grief, and the Political Function of Emotion

Hypatia 31 (3):572-588 (2016)
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This article theorizes the politics of witnessing and grief in the context of the embodied experience of cows raised for dairy in the Pacific Northwestern United States. Bearing witness to the mundane features of dairy production and their impact on cows' physical and emotional worlds enables us to understand the violence of commodification and the political dimensions of witnessing the suffering of an Other. I argue that greater attention should be paid to the uneven hierarchies of power in the act of bearing witness. Centering the animal as a subject of witnessing allows us to see with particular clarity the ethical ambiguities at work in witnessing while at the same time attending to the importance of witnessing-as-politics. My project here is to lay bare moments of emotional and physical turmoil not seen as such—the lives that are rendered ungrievable—and examine how we can and should respond to them. Thus, this article contributes to feminist conversations about witnessing, grief, and the political function of emotion.



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Kathryn Gillespie
Harvard University

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The posthuman.Rosi Braidotti - 2013 - Malden, MA, USA: Polity Press.
Love and knowledge: Emotion in feminist epistemology.Alison M. Jaggar - 1989 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):151 – 176.
The liberation of nature: A circular affair.Marti Kheel - 1985 - Environmental Ethics 7 (2):135-149.

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