‘With their skins on them, and … their souls in them’: Towards a Vegan Theory
An Interdisciplinary Humanities Conference
31st May 2016
University of Oxford
Building on the increasing prominence of the ‘animal turn’ in the humanities in the last decade, and the recent publication of Laura Wright’s The Vegan Studies Project: Food, Animals, and Gender in an Age of Terror (University of Georgia Press, 2015), this conference will seek to ask what kind of place veganism and/or ‘the vegan’ should occupy in our theorizations of human-animal relations, animal studies, and the humanities in general. An increasing number of individuals, particularly in the West, are now identifying as vegan, but the heterogeneity of reasons for doing so – animal suffering, the environment, health, anti-capitalism – suggests a broad, complex, and fertile place from which to rethink ways of being in the world.
As an identity-category based on choice and response, veganism asks difficult questions both of its own coherence, and of identitarian cultural politics and theory. It also, therefore, invites a rethinking of philosophical definitions of humans as the only animal which can respond, opening new ways of conceptualizing or challenging the human/animal binary. How might we articulate our responsibilities to other animals? Further, by challenging the foundations upon which notions of human identity have long been based it provides a framework for rethinking how we relate animal studies to broader postcolonial, feminist, queer and ecocritical theory. Thus, the conference looks to consider how engaging with veganism not just as a diet or lifestyle, but as a set of cognitive co-ordinates, might change current critical-theoretical practices. We therefore invite papers which explore – broadly or narrowly, practically or conceptually – what vegan ways of being in the world might do to our practices of reading. In other words, what might a vegan theory look, read, or sound like? And what is its place in the humanities?
Confirmed speakers include Dr Bob McKay (Sheffield), Prof Sara Salih (Toronto), Prof Jason Edwards (York) and a keynote from Prof Laura Wright (Western Carolina).