The Animal Gaze: Animal Subjectivities in Southern African Narratives

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Wits University Press, 2008 - History - 192 pages
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Many humans do not regard animals as complex beings. Instead, they objectify animals, relate to them as "pets," or see them simply as spectacles of beauty or wildness. By contrast, the southern African writers whose work is explored in The Animal Gaze, including Olive Schreiner, Zakes Mda, Yvonne Vera, Eugene N. Marais, J.M. Coetzee, Luis Bernardo Honwana, Michiel Heyns, Marlene van Niekerk and Linda Tucker, represent animals as richly individual subjects. The animals—including cattle, horses, birds, lions, leopards, baboons, dogs, cats and a whale—experience complex emotions and have agency, intentionality and morality, as well as an ability to recognize and fear death. When animals are acknowledged as subjects in this way, then the animal gaze and the human response encapsulate an interspecies communication of kinship, rather than confirming a human sense of superiority. This volume goes beyond Jacques Derrida’s notion of the animal gaze which still has animals as the "absolute other," and suggests a re-conceptualizing of animals as "others." The Animal Gaze engages with the writings of Jacques Derrida, J. M. Coetzee, Val Plumwood and Martha C. Nussbaum, as it brings together Literary Studies, Ethics, Animal Studies and African traditional thought, including shamanism, in a way that compels the reader to think differently about nonhuman animals and human relationships with them.

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Animals and African knowledges
Feline predators and sacred spaces
Baboons colonial discourses and moral agency

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About the author (2008)

Wendy Woodward is a professor in the English department at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

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