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Bending Nature: Animals

  • Rajvi Thakkar

Presentation author(s)

Rajvi Thakkar ’21, Mumbai, India

Majors: Religious Studies; International Relations


How does the modern concept of “the human” create avenues for the exploitation of animals? The modern concept of “the human” relies on the radical separation between “human” and “animal” to reinforce us as the ultimately privileged entities. This paper examines some of the symbolic and practical uses of animals in human society and the ways in which animals are exploited in our attempt to transform nature and establish our dominance. This paper explores the social construction of “animals” to examine human attitudes towards them revealing ideological assumptions in everyday discourse that privilege the human. It explores connections among speciesism, the assumption that humans are the ultimate privileged entities leading to the exploitation of animals, and other “traditional” forms of prejudice such as racism, casteism, and sexism. Emphasizing the importance of not compartmentalizing inequalities, this tendency to treat animals as intrinsically less valuable than ourselves reveals that forms of oppression depend upon and mutually reinforce the other. Finally, this paper considers whether and how the recognition of certain animals as “non-human persons,” redeemed to be sufficiently like “us,” blurs the categorical separation between “human” and “animal.”


Natalie Gummer

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