On some difficulties of putting in dialogue animal rights with anthropological debates: a historical view in three episodes

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Abstract

In this paper, I try to identify the reasons why the dialogue between sociocultural anthropology and animal rights theories and movements continues to be difficult and scarce. At first sight this weakness of communication is surprising, if one looks at the amount of anthropological studies on human/animal relationships, in most cases pointing to how animals are considered in many cultures as non- human subjects or persons. For understanding the roots of this state of affairs, I compare the ways anthropologists and animal rights theorists and activists have engaged with the issue of the differences and commonalities between human beings and nonhuman animals. For this aim, I contrast the search, among philosophers and activists, for a universal rational ethical foundation of animal rights, to which natural sciences’ findings can give support, with sociocultural anthropologists’ focus on the embeddedness of human/animal relationships in symbolic systems and in political relationships. In spite of the paradigmatic shifts intervened in a century and half of sociocultural anthropology, I show, through a critical review of the recent works of Ingold, Descola, Viveiros de Castro and Kohn, that even today this difference in approach is far to be overcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-705
Number of pages29
JournalINTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR THE SEMIOTICS OF LAW
Volume31
Publication statusPublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Law

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