ArgLab • Colloquium

Alice Crary

Dehumanization and the Question of Animals

This lecture is about how the dehumanization of human beings and the hatred of animals are intertwined. Its guiding claim is that productive efforts to combat the subjugation of human groups need to challenge normative hierarchies that give animals lower standing. The lecture opens with some of the many—historical and current—patterns of belief and practice in which groups of humans are subjugated by means of invidious comparisons to animals. Critics of these “animalizing ideologies” frequently insist, in a manner that re-inscribes the ideologies’ debasement of animals, that targeted humans are superior to animals. This is unsurprising given the millennia-long history of conceiving human dignity as a matter of placement above the condition of animals. Nonetheless, the move ought to seem objectionable to activists and scholars who protest the animalization of human groups solely because they believe in human moral equality. If left in place, an image of animals as lesser beings saddles us with a normative hierarchy that accommodates further ideologies targeting vulnerable humans. So, preoccupation with the humans harmed by animalizing ideologies ought to prompt us to inquire into the possibility of an account of animal moral standing that is consistent with—human—egalitarianism.


Alice Crary, New School for Social Research, New York City (United States)