This introductory chapter asks how speciesism engenders the bestialization of racial and sexual others. How does the stereotype of the black ape work to disavow the Darwinian principle of a universally shared human apehood? To what extent are both racist and antiracist discourses predicated on a shared repudiation of animality? How might we comprehend animality in nonpejorative terms? Analogous to the racialization of animality, the homophobic claim that granting civil rights such as marriage to gays and lesbians would also require the state to sanction bestiality denies the animality inherent in all sexuality by portraying homosexuality as a bestial act. If negative stereotypes about nonhuman animals are the condition of possibility for negative stereotypes about social and political minorities, then avowing human animality would seem to hold much political promise. Against some recent trends in “posthumanism,” however, this chapter asserts that an anti-discriminatory politics cannot be founded on a simple reversal of humanism. Human animality cannot be fully avowed. Rather, we must cultivate a weaker disavowal of difference that resonates with what Jacques Derrida characterizes as a “lesser violence,” which acknowledges our unavoidable implication in systems of exclusion.
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