Messy Eating

About Project

Critical Animal Studies and the Politics of Meat

Members of the King Research Group Scott Carey, Victoria Millious and Dr. Samantha King along with Dr. Elaine Power (SKHS) and Isabel Macquarrie (Sociology) are investigating the relationship between scholarship, identity and meat eating.

Over the past decade, public interest in the ethics and politics of food, and in the consumption of animal products in particular, has reached a fever pitch. This project emerges from our desire to more adequately understand the messy, contradictory relationships between contemporary humans and animals, particularly as these relationships are implicated in perceptions and practices of eating. Our immediate inspiration was an interview conducted by literary critic, Jeffrey Williams, with a leading theorist of human-animal relationships, Donna J. Haraway (Williams, 2009-10). While their conversation is not primarily concerned with food, at one point Williams asks Haraway if she renounces eating meat. In an intensely conflicted and provocative answer, she discusses her desire for a world in which there is a place for agricultural animals and her concomitant inability to articulate an adequate response to the convictions of her vegan friends. Haraway does not explicitly describe their convictions, but implies that her friends view the use of animal products for human consumption as unnecessary and immoral.

We sense that there is much to be learned about the complex terrain of ethical eating from people who have devoted their professional lives to thinking and writing about interspecies relationships, but who, with few exceptions (Calarco, 2012; Haraway, 2008), have not explicitly discussed in their published work their perspectives on ingesting animals for food. We will conduct interviews with emerging and established researchers in the field of critical animal studies. Given the cultural shifts that helped inspire this project, we are especially interested in speaking with scholars who approach their work from a posthumanist—often poststructuralist-inspired—perspective; that is, scholars who seek to theorize shifting relations between humans and animals by probing what it means to approach the human as just one life form among many and to abandon sharp distinctions between species, thus calling into question the very meaning of humanity (Wolfe, 2010). The research questions guiding our study are as follows:

1. How can the field of interspecies relationships/animal studies contribute to contemporary debates on ethical eating?

2. Do concepts and theories in critical animal studies inform and shape the everyday dietary practices of leading scholars in the field? If so, how?

3. How have the dietary practices—and other interspecies experiences--of these scholars shaped their academic work?

4. How might personal and theoretical commitments related to the (non)consumption of animals translate into political positions and actions that shape human coexistence with other species?

As of May 2015 we will launch a website featuring an interactive online audio and print archive of the interviews to share and discuss our research with members of the public concerned with the social, economic, political, and environmental dimensions of eating meat and other animal products. As we continue to gather interviews we will grow our web site into a digital community and resource for those interested in the nexus between collaborative learning, animal studies, food studies and the politics of eating.