Aren’t we Animals? Deconstructing or Decolonizing the Human – Animal Divide

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Ever since the influential Thomas Hobbes, who claimed that ‘natural men’ were ‘like wolves’ to one another, Western philosophy has valued the animal aspects of our humanity negatively, and seen the growth of reason and civilization as the way to overcome them. The relations between different human peoples were understood in a similar vein: the Western, white, man was considered endowed with reason, while the ‘others’ were seen as almost ‘animals’ – almost, as Kant and Hegel saw beneficial effects in colonizing them, and leading them out of their supposed natural state into (Western) history. I will discuss two critical approaches to the double divide, between a) humans and animals and b) ‘reasonable’ and ‘savage’ human beings, that characterizes modern Western thought. One approach seeks to decolonize (Eze, Fanon), and the other to deconstruct (Derrida) the divide. The first criticizes the non-inclusive nature and oppressive effects of the modern idea of ‘humanity’, while the second seeks to ‘undefine’ the animal, thereby undermining the oppressive effects of the divide. To begin with, I will describe the alternative views of human-animal relations in shamanistic cultures, as interpreted by anthropologists (Bamana, Kohn), who aim to escape the white canon of disciplinary philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAre we Special?
Subtitle of host publicationHuman Uniqueness in Science and Theology
EditorsMichael Fuller, Dirk Evers, Anne Runehov, Knut-Willy Saether
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-62124-1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameIssues in Science and Theology


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