The Animal ClaimSensibility and the Creaturely Voice

The Animal ClaimSensibility and the Creaturely Voice

Tobias Menely

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226239255

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Some of the perplexities of animal rights, as a historical phenomenon, are resolved if we regard rights as neither simply intrinsic to nature nor contingent on state recognition but as a communicative transaction, a claim (etymologically, a cry) that begins before the law and yet is only realized in the law. Testing this premise, this book tracks the development of ethicopolitical community with animals in Britain from the anti-Cartesian origins of ethical sensibility in the Restoration to the first animal welfare legislation, Martin’s Act of 1822. As a semiology of creaturely affect and address, sensibility offered an unprecedented account of the non-linguistic communication humans share with other animals, of the force of the signifying voice to intervene or interpose and of its availability to redirection and remediation. The book moves from accounts of community formation in Enlightenment political philosophy, to public address in periodical culture, to poetry as a medium of advocacy, to parliamentary debates about the statutory protection of animal welfare. At stake in each of these arenas is the status of an intermediary, such as an advocate who establishes his authority to intervene in the sovereign order by staging his secondariness vis-à-vis a passionate voice that precedes him. The book recovers a discourse of sensibility in which the human appears, in the self-difference of a creature subject to history’s impress, in its answerability to the animal, and argues that the non-identity between the vocal claim and the symbolic law preserves the possibility of a justice not yet realized.