Image copyright Mark Peters Photography

Varieties of Empathy, Joy and Wonder in Animal Ethics
Elisa Aaltola

Wednesday 9 May 2018
New Law Annexe, Seminar Room 340

Empathy, joy and wonder are emotions often lacking from how other animals are defined and treated. Within the cultural politics of emotion in general, they tend to be similarlymarginalised, as the age of individualism often highlights more self-directed ways of approaching others. The talk exploressuch politics in thecontext ofattitudes toward animals: what sorts of emotions do Western cultures teach one to feel towardpigs,pigeons, fishes and cows,andhow doesthis impact our take ontheir moralstanding?It also maps out the philosophy of empathy,joy and wondervia reference to thinkers such as Simone Weil and Baruch Spinoza, andsuggests that these emotions offer a viable and vital foundation for anew animal ethic, capable of highlighting animal perspectives.

Elisa Aaltola, PhD,worksas a Senior Researcher in Philosophy at the University of Eastern Finland. She has worked on animal ethics/philosophy for a number of years, and most recently has focused also on the moral psychology of our treatment of other animals. Her books includeVarieties of Empathy: Moral Psychology and Animal Ethics(Rowman & Littlefields Int. 2018),Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture(Palgrave MacMillan 2012), andAnimal Ethics and Philosophy: Questioning the Orthodoxy(co-edited with John Hadley, Rowman and Littlefields Int. 2014).

Shiri Raz

The Flesh of the Happy and the Flesh of the Unhappy:
An Interdisciplinary Research of Human Relation to Animal Product Consumption

Shiri Raz.

Tuesday 30 May, 2017
Old Teachers College 437, 1 - 2pm.

"I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the dammed, the sheep and the goats."

These words, delivered by Elizabeth Costello to her audience as she lectures them on the human treatment of animals in the food industry, are a quote from the novel 'The Lives of Animals' by John Maxwell Coetzee, published in 1999. Costello, the protagonist, is an Australian author who travels overseas to visit her son and give a series of lectures, where she focuses mainly on the moral aspects of animal product consumption. Coetzee presents not only the content of Costello's lectures in his book, but also describes affairs surrounding them – the casual conversation with academics during conference dinners and Costello's intimate relationships with her son, daughter-in-law and sister. The recurring theme in all her attempts at dialogue about the issue is the limits of language. Each and every encounter ends with moments of awkwardness and anger, dead ends, fueled emotions and thundering silence.

This gap, familiar to anyone who has ever tried to discuss the phenomenon with someone who does not share his views – a gap between viewpoints and experiences – is the gap that I will show exists both in our philosophical discussion of the phenomenon and in everyday conversation, and it takes a heavy toll both on us and on the animals. This gap is the center of this interdisciplinary, linguistic-literary-psychoanalytical research.

With the aid of the philosophy of language, Wittgenstein's concept of ethics and psychoanalysis' 'the third', I would like to explain the existing difficulties in the attempt at debate of the phenomenon, and present a model which allows a deeper understanding of the conflicts between individuals and groups by observing the way we use language. I believe this model can be beneficial both to the theoretical academic discussion of the phenomenon and to everyday conversation.

Shiri Raz is a Ph.D. candidate in the psychoanalysis and hermeneutics program at Bar-Ilan University. She is a therapist for couples and individuals, specializing in work with vegans and mixed couples (vegans and non-vegans). She is an animal rights activist and public speaker.


Image Copyright: Justin Ennis

The Elephant's I
Radhika Subramaniam.

16 May, 2017
Old Teachers College 437, 1 - 2pm.

The Elephant's I is an experimental approach to the writing of an animal biography that takes the animal, its human companion and the writer/researcher as three prongs in the construction of the story.

The animal in question is the elephant Abu’l Abbas, introduced to history through a few lines in the Royal Frankish Annals. He arrived on European shores in 800 AD from Baghdad as a gift from the Caliph of Baghdad, Harun al Rashid to Charlemagne. In most historical accounts, he appears as a two-word cipher: Charlemagne’s elephant. Arabic sources are silent on this matter.

Often told as a tale of the circuits of diplomacy and trade that link the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean or the relationship of Holy Roman Christendom to the Islamic Caliphate, the animal is in the ivories, oliphants and imagery of art history or in children’s fables. Most likely an Asian elephant, scant traces indicate that he arrived in Baghdad during the era of the previous caliph, al-Mahdi, as a gift from “an Indian raja”.

The larger project, to which this is a general introduction, is a work of narrative nonfiction that constructs a plausible tale of this elephant’s travels, which would undoubtedly have been in the company of a mahout (an elephant handler). The migrant mahout can be inferred into being only through the elephant, and Abu’l Abbas, shunted across borders, is bereft of sustained interactions except with his handler. The intertwined experiences of intimacy, isolation, confinement, migration and intelligibility of these fellow sojourners forms the tale, posing the challenge of telling stories across species and time.

Dr Radhika Subramaniam is a curator, editor and writer with an interdisciplinary practice that deploys such platforms as exhibitions, texts and public art interventions as conscious forms of knowledge-making. The Director/Chief Curator of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at The New School, New York, she teaches in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at the university's Parsons School of Design. She is in Sydney as part of Artspace's International Visiting Curator program, developed in collaboration with UNSW Art+Design.


Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

The horse world: Human-horse relationships in equestrian sport and leisure
Kate Dashper.

11 April, 2017
Carslaw Tutorial Room 354, 1 - 2pm.

In this presentation I will draw on an 8-year multispecies ethnography to discuss interspecies interactions within equestrian sport and leisure. There are many challenges to theorising human-horse relationships within these contexts, as encounters are complex, nuanced and variable, taking place across species, spatial, temporal and sensorial boundaries. I will discuss five key themes I use to understand these interspecies relationships: seeing horses as ‘persons’; partnership and collaboration in horse-human communication; horse-human interaction as an embodied way of knowing and being in the world; the horse world in space and time; and, individual and collective identities. Building on these themes I argue that it is possible to understand better how interspecies relationships are developed, performed and negotiated within equestrian sport and leisure, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Questions of how to try and represent bodily relationships, especially those developed through riding, through the dominant medium of academia - words - are considered and I proposed a framework for researchers to draw upon and develop in our efforts to enhance understanding and appreciation of the subtle and complex interspecies encounters that underpin equestrian sport and leisure.

Dr Kate Dashper is senior lecturer in events management at Leeds Beckett University, UK. Her research focuses primarily on interspecies encounters, particularly those between humans and horses, and the ways in which human and nonhuman animals come together, intermingle, and negotiate degrees of shared communication. She is the author of Human-animal relationships in equestrian sport and leisure (Routledge, 2017).


Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Preference Formation:A Non-Rationalistic & Non-Individualistic Approach
Frédéric Côté-Boudreau.

20 September, 2016.
RC Mills Building Room 148, 1 - 2pm.

There are many theoretical obstacles that prevent marginalized groups, such as animals and persons with cognitive disabilities, from living the life they would like to lead. The main cause in these two cases has probably to do with the way philosophers typically define the concept of autonomy - in a highly rationalistic fashion. This tradition seems to me wrongheaded, as everyone is entitled to be free to choose her life and to not be dominated, regardless of one’s cognitive abilities.

But even once we grant that these individuals deserve the rights associated with autonomy, other issues persist. Is it enough to let them choose as they want or is intervention warranted in some cases, for instance when their choices are significantly harmful? And given that influences inescapably shape one's identity and preferences in any social settings, how can we ensure that their environment can foster their autonomy rather than force them into predetermined choices? In general, how do we deal with adaptive preferences with persons who are not only more vulnerable to manipulation, but also less apt to question their options?

By drawing from relational autonomy, disability studies, and citizenship theory of animals, I will argue that these issues can be addressed in non-rationalistic and non-individualistic terms in a way that is equally instructive for neurotypical human agents, for persons with cognitive disabilities, and for animals. This approach will emphasize that social support is often crucial for any group to acknowledge and overcome its oppression, and for this reason, that personal autonomy often relies on interpersonal contributions. But this social influence, as it can as much foster as undermine individual liberty, should also aim at helping individuals to make their own choices, by allowing them the opportunity to redefine their relationships and their environment to a certain extent, to opt out if necessary, as well as to gain the power to contest their set of options.

Frédéric Côté-Boudreau is a Ph.D. student in Philosophy at Queen's University, working under the supervision of Will Kymlicka. His interests cover issues at the intersection between political philosophy and animal ethics while his thesis focuses on the concept of autonomy. He is also active in the Québec animal justice movement and maintains a popular French-language blog at

Cat Reading

Writing About Animals: Literature’s evolving relationship with the animal kingdom
13 September, 2016.
New Law Building Seminar Room 028, 12 noon - 2pm.

As a society, we have a curious relationship with animals
Some animals we welcome into our homes and our lives. Others we bar from our lawns and legal systems to keep animals in their place and us in ours.
This seminar examines the role that literature and language plays in reimagining our relationship with animals. We will discuss how animal-themed literature has evolved and where it is headed. And we will focus on language and how it shapes our relationships with different species (and our sense of their relations with one another).
Combined with readings from new works of fiction, this seminar will offer insights into the ways in which twenty-first century animal literature can enlighten as well as entertain.

Midge Raymond (My Last Continent)
Sascha Morrell (Among Animals 2: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction)
John Yunker (The Tourist Trail)

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Peter Chen

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HARN Seminar 7: Exploring Biodiversity as Cultural Value
June 2014

The considerable reduction in biodiversity over recent decades is an issue with less immediately obvious consequences for humans than the dramatic risks associated with climate change. Rising sea levels will render millions of people homeless, but the decline in the global number of species conveys more subtle and ambiguous dangers. There may be significant unforeseen consequences to the loss of some organisms (as became evident with the recent collapse of the South Asian vulture population), but the loss of others may have no apparent consequences for humans at all. It seems abundantly clear that human cultures rely on pollinators such as bees, but would they really miss the pygmy three-toed sloth?
The issue of biodiversity loss evokes, therefore, complex questions of value. To whom does extinction matter, why, and how? Answers to these questions often rely on a principle of concealed usefulness. In this outlook, biodiversity represents a vast data bank of genetic information that contains an array of undiscovered possibilities for medicine or industry. A striking contrast to this hard-nosed, market-driven approach resides in the emotional attachment to certain species, or to the natural world more generally, that motivates many conservation campaigns. Such reasoning, though widely on show, has the disadvantage of appearing vague, sentimental and under-theorized. What it highlights is the urgent need for a humanities perspective on the question of biodiversity loss as a key part of the global challenge of responding to climate change. It is also important to situate contemporary thought in relation to a longer history of ideas about biodiversity as this allows for a far deeper appreciation of the complexities of this urgent issue in the twenty-first century and brings the question of extinction into contact with other central ecological, ethical and socio-political concerns. How, for example are the rhetorics and philosophies of value that currently shape public discourse on biodiversity loss challenged by (and how do they in turn complicate) related cultural evaluations of nonhuman death?
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HARN Seminar 6: More than Human
April 2014

Professor Lesley Head FAHA FASSA
Department of Geography and Sustainable Communities
Director, Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER),University of Wollongong

The distinctive capacities of plants, and implications for animal studies
Although the agency of plants is increasingly demonstrated, scholars have yet to fully respond, for plants, to Lulka’s (2009) call to attend more carefully to the details of nonhuman difference. This presentation draws on collaborative work with Jennifer Atchison and Catherine Phillips. We provide a systematic and provisional overview of the shared capacities of plants, in order to take them seriously in their own terms, and to consider what that means for human-plant relations more generally. We begin by identifying and discussing materialities and capacities that scientists consider plants to share, plus three additional capacities fundamental to plant living – moving independent of humans, sensing and communicating, and taking shape as flexible bodies. Together these contribute to a sense of plant worlds in which distinctive but highly variable plant forms have their own lives and also interact with humans and others in contingent ways. As empirical illustration we explore the adversarial relationship between rubber vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora) and invasive plant managers in northern Australia. We conclude by considering some comparative implications for animal studies.

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HARN Seminar 5: A Plague on our House: Obesity, pests and the Devil’s Cancer
November 2013

Professor Katherine Belov
Sympathy for the devil: how do we stop a contagious cancer?
ARC Future Fellow | Professor of Comparative Genomics
Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney
Professor David Raubenheimer
Penny wise pound foolish: geometry, obesity and the cost of food
Leonard P Ullman Chair in Nutritional Ecology and Nutrition Theme Leader
Charles Perkins Centre | Faculty of Veterinary Science | School of Biological Sciences
University of Sydney
Professor Edward C. Holmes
The greatest evolutionary experiment: viral biocontrol of rabbits
NHMRC Australia Fellow
Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases & Biosecurity,
School of Biological Sciences and Sydney Medical School
University of Sydney

Workshop with Professor Cary Wolfe (Rice University) (July 2013
Chair: Dr Dinesh Wa[[diwel (Sociology, HARN)

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HARN Seminar 4 North/South: Human/Animal
May 2013
The geography of human-other animal encounters matters. Places and spaces have politics and imaginaries that entangle multi-species pasts and futures and continually reposition human and non human subjects. In this seminar we examine aspects of how human-other animal relations intersect with geographies of settlement in Australia. We focus on inside / outside relations, exploring the way that non human others shape the geo-political and biopolitical borders of our selves, cities and nation.
Dr Chris Degeling (VeLiM)
Fantastic Invasion: Biological Insecurity and the Moral Standing of Hendra Virus
Dr Dinesh Wadiwel (Sociology)
Saving 'Our' Cattle: Race and Animal Advocacy
Assoc Professor Tess Lea (GCS)
Mosquito architecture: how things that bite shape cities

The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments (February 2013)
Dr Andrew Knight
The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments (Palgrave Macmillan)
Few ethical issues create as much controversy as invasive experiments on animals. Some scientists claim they are essential for combating major human diseases, or detecting human toxins. Others claim the contrary, backed by thousands of patients harmed by pharmaceuticals developed using animal tests. Some claim all experiments are conducted humanely, to high scientific standards. Yet a wealth of studies has recently revealed that laboratory animals suffer significant stress, which may distort experimental results.

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HARN Seminar 3: Dangerous Animals
February 2012

When, and how, do animals 'become' dangerous? Perhaps surprisingly, human fear and loathing of particular animal species is a recent phenomenon in Australia. Neither sharks nor spiders were considered serious hazards to human life until the late 1920s. The subsequent stampede to science and policy to quantify, control and exterminate these beasts illustrates how readily ‘dangerous’ animals have been constructed in line with cultural sensitivities rather than biology. But what makes an animal dangerous? Why do ancient animosities towards snakes persist through millennia, while equally enduring fears of frogs and toads fade away? Why is the venomous platypus considered cuddly, yet furry funnel-web spiders provoke disgust? How do humans decide when it is safe to go back in the water, and why does a howl of ‘Shark’ empty beaches in moments? Moreover, how does perception or ‘proof’ of dangerousness alter the moral standing of animal species, permitting practices such as vivisection, culling or outright eradication? Drawing upon cultural theory and biology, history and current policy, this seminar will explore the aversive aspect of human-animal relations, with particular emphasis on Australian circumstances and examples.
Peter Hobbins Department of History, University of Sydney
Christopher Neff Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

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HARN Seminar 2: In Human Care (August 2011)
In what ways do humans 'care' for animals? The contexts in which the term ‘care’ is used demonstrate its multipurpose and also, perhaps, an assumption that we know what care is and what it can do. Can care be motivated, activated or focused on doing certain things and not others? How do we assess, read and measure ‘care’ in relation to the animal human bond? This seminar approaches the issue of care from three different angles. Malcolm France discusses the perceptions and practice of care in the context of the use of animals in research; Anne Fawcett discusses how veterinarian’s reading of the human animal bond impacts on mobilisation of care. Fiona Probyn-Rapsey examines the work of Stanley Cohen (States of Denial) noting how different ‘cultures’ of denial effect the mobilization of care.
Dr Anne Fawcett
Faculty of Veterinary Science, Sydney
The human animal bond and its role in determining treatment of animals in a veterinary clinical context
Malcolm France
Laboratory Animal Services, Sydney
Animals in Scientific Research
Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsey
Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, Sydney
Activating care and thinking through denial

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HARN Seminar 1: Horse (May 2011)
Professor Paul McGreevy
Faculty of Veterinary Science, Sydney
Flogging a Tired Horse
Celeste Black
Sydney Law School
Plowing by the Tayle’: Horse Welfare and the Law
Assoc Professor Phil McManus
School of Geosciences, Sydney
Thoroughbreds: breeding, racing and beyond