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Critical Animal Studies and The Study of Judaism in Late Antiquity: Animals as Technology/ Animals and Technology

Mon, December 17, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 3 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


How does thinking with animals change the way we study Late Antique Jewish culture, identity, textuality, law, and religion? This panel takes up Jacques Derrida’s call to interrogate the line that divides between human and animal, a line that defines “what is proper to man, his subjugating superiority over the animal, his very becoming-subject, his historicity, his emergence out of nature, his sociality, his access to knowledge and technics” (“The Animal That Therefore I Am”). Derrida’s deconstruction of the human and the animal has led to fruitful conversations and necessary ethical critiques, but his insistence on an abyss between humans and animals caused him to miss – as Donna Haraway has pointed out -- many of the less than cognitive ways that humans and animals are messmates in an entangled drama of living, rather than simply atomized entities barely looking at one another. Haraway points to the ways that humans and animals have symbiotically developed together. One of the worldly relations she suggests we explore is work. What if we see animal workers as technologies developed and deployed in entangled assemblies of naturecultures, rather than simply as exploited and dominated creatures? Despite being used for work, often times these animals thrive, as both species and individuals. Following Haraway’s critique of Derrida, the three papers in this panel seek to uncover the human-animal relationship as it was construed across a variety of rabbinic texts. The papers in this panel approach the question of the animal through the problematics of technics, power, and knowledge. By probing the ways that animals and humans work together and work on each other, with and as technologies, the papers in this panel seek to understand the ways in which rabbinic texts portray human relationships with the non-human world. In one way or another all of these papers interrogate how rabbinic texts imagine animals as forms of technology, and how rabbinic texts imagine the power of technology itself to subjectify and subject animals, along with the humans who utilize these technics of power.

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