Title of Presentation

Session A: Cross-Examining the Animal: Justice, Legal Personhood, and Courts

Sub-theme

Research and Theory

Keywords

legal personhood, animals, more than human, justice

Start Date

12-10-2018 10:15 AM

End Date

12-10-2018 11:30 AM

Abstract

In the recent past, there has been a curious increase in the academic interest on animal legal personhood. Spate of litigations in several jurisdictions, including the US, and sparse instances of legislative recognition of non-human sentience and legal personality have partly fuelled such interest. The question of non-human legal personality, or animal personhood to be more specific, has garnered interesting interdisciplinary perspectives. While geographers and philosophers have investigated the question through the matrices of spatiality and materiality of animal body politic (Haraway, 1978), jurists have inquired the moral and ethical framework of law that accommodates or resists non-human subjects. Unsurprisingly, the complexity of the subject lends itself to divided opinions based on field-specific understandings of what law is or what legal personality entails. Yet, the debate remains nebulous at best for the lack of its engagement with the normative structures of law. This paper seeks to understand courts as sites of knowledge production, ritualistically writing and erasing the ‘animal’ in the discursive space of legal personhood.

I examine the non-human body as a space of inscription for a range of actors – lawyers, courts, ecologists, animal rights activists, philosophers and the likes. Relying on the cases argued and decided in the past that have propelled this conversation, this paper hopes to tease out the differences between ‘justice’ and ‘rights’ that are often unintentionally melded (Gardner, 2012). It is my objective to unpack the inherent contradictions between legal processes that expect anthropomorphic performances from animals and the moral framework of law that upholds justice and fairness for all, where the ‘all’ has been historically undefined. To this end, I employ post-human frameworks (Braidotti, 2013) that have informed recent scholarships in human geography on human and non-human relationality (Haraway, 2016). Further, this paper also examines the production and erasure of ‘more than human’ (Abram, 1996; Barua, 2014) in the juridical space enabled by tangles of laws, procedures, and courtroom processes. I argue that the limits of court as institutions specifically designed for and within human societies fail to accommodate the arguments made for legal personality for animals. In addition, the arguments in themselves are limiting and fetter the progress towards ‘justice for animals’ (Garner, 2013). A constant search for evidence of sentience or reasoning abilities betray their own cause. Based on an array of material from more than human geographies and legal philosophies, this paper intends to demonstrate that there is a greater worth in recognising non-human through their places in political economy, political ecology, and species kinship. To this end, it is necessary to shift the conversation from the bounded juridical space to the non-juridical and the social, which have manifest a greater potential for making and remaking of new identities.

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Oct 12th, 10:15 AM Oct 12th, 11:30 AM

Session A: Cross-Examining the Animal: Justice, Legal Personhood, and Courts

In the recent past, there has been a curious increase in the academic interest on animal legal personhood. Spate of litigations in several jurisdictions, including the US, and sparse instances of legislative recognition of non-human sentience and legal personality have partly fuelled such interest. The question of non-human legal personality, or animal personhood to be more specific, has garnered interesting interdisciplinary perspectives. While geographers and philosophers have investigated the question through the matrices of spatiality and materiality of animal body politic (Haraway, 1978), jurists have inquired the moral and ethical framework of law that accommodates or resists non-human subjects. Unsurprisingly, the complexity of the subject lends itself to divided opinions based on field-specific understandings of what law is or what legal personality entails. Yet, the debate remains nebulous at best for the lack of its engagement with the normative structures of law. This paper seeks to understand courts as sites of knowledge production, ritualistically writing and erasing the ‘animal’ in the discursive space of legal personhood.

I examine the non-human body as a space of inscription for a range of actors – lawyers, courts, ecologists, animal rights activists, philosophers and the likes. Relying on the cases argued and decided in the past that have propelled this conversation, this paper hopes to tease out the differences between ‘justice’ and ‘rights’ that are often unintentionally melded (Gardner, 2012). It is my objective to unpack the inherent contradictions between legal processes that expect anthropomorphic performances from animals and the moral framework of law that upholds justice and fairness for all, where the ‘all’ has been historically undefined. To this end, I employ post-human frameworks (Braidotti, 2013) that have informed recent scholarships in human geography on human and non-human relationality (Haraway, 2016). Further, this paper also examines the production and erasure of ‘more than human’ (Abram, 1996; Barua, 2014) in the juridical space enabled by tangles of laws, procedures, and courtroom processes. I argue that the limits of court as institutions specifically designed for and within human societies fail to accommodate the arguments made for legal personality for animals. In addition, the arguments in themselves are limiting and fetter the progress towards ‘justice for animals’ (Garner, 2013). A constant search for evidence of sentience or reasoning abilities betray their own cause. Based on an array of material from more than human geographies and legal philosophies, this paper intends to demonstrate that there is a greater worth in recognising non-human through their places in political economy, political ecology, and species kinship. To this end, it is necessary to shift the conversation from the bounded juridical space to the non-juridical and the social, which have manifest a greater potential for making and remaking of new identities.