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The Postcolonial Animal: Nature/Culture/Empire

Neel Ahuja

Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
Communications 120

Neel Ahuja is Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His research focuses on the intersection of science, culture, and politics, with a special emphasis on how public cultures of imperialism are forged through 20th and 21st century forms of biological and environmental security. Drawing on literary, visual, and state archives connecting South Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the United States, Neel’s writings focus on a variety of transnational biopolitical topics: warfare, migration, environmental conservation, animal rights initiatives, disease control, disability and medical activism, and mass incarceration. Neel publishes in scholarly venues inside and outside his own discipline of literary and cultural studies; his essays appear in the journals Social Text, American QuarterlyPMLA, GLQ, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, among others.

Neel grew up in Topeka, Kansas and studied transnational cultural studies at the University of California, San Diego and gender studies at Northwestern University. He volunteers at the Animal Protection Society of Durham, North Carolina.

The Postcolonial Animal: Nature/Culture/Empire

Crossdisciplinary Research Cluster

Animal Studies has gained great visibility thanks in part to the contributions of such leading scholarly figures as Jacques Derrida (2008), Donna Haraway (2008), and Martha Nussbaum (2007). As the Chronicle for Higher Education put it, “animal studies has become a force to be reckoned with in philosophy, literary and cultural studies, history, and other fields with a traditionally humanistic bent” (Howard 2009). A sign of the importance of the “animal turn” is the emergence of new fields it has made possible, the most notable of which we argue is the study of what we call “the postcolonial animal,” shorthand for the urgency, utility, and even the necessity of placing race, sex, and species within the same analytic frame.

Following scholarship on intersectionality, a particularly powerful analytic tool for understanding identity formation and experience, we argue that species can be added to—and can intersect with—gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality, to better understand how vectors of power and privilege are formed and how we might start to shift them in the direction of greater social justice.