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'Agents of description' : animals, affect, and care in Thalia Field’s Experimental Animals: A Reality Fiction (2016)

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

In this article, I explore questions of laboratory animal agency in dialogue with Thalia Field’s literary text “Experimental Animals: A Reality Fiction” (2016). Using the framework of “care” (understood, following María Puig de la Bellacasa 2017, as a multi-dimensional concept comprising affect, ethics, and practice), I consider how Field’s synaesthetic descriptions of animal suffering create an affective response in readers, alerting them to a shared carnal vulnerability. Indeed, rather than anthropomorphizing animals through narration or focalization, Field “stays with the body” to consider how animals call to us not as experimental objects, but as ethical subjects, how they become – in other words – agents of the description (Stewart 2016). To develop this idea, I introduce the “practiced” dimension of care. More specifically, I explore how Field uses narrative strategies like first-person narration and second-person address, “bridge characters” (James 2019), and juxtaposition to morally structure the text and encourage “transspecies alliances” between readers and represented animals. I argue that such devices direct and train affect, allowing us to better appreciate how conceptions of nonhuman animal agency are always contextualized within particular sets of social, cultural, historical, and disciplinary frames and practices.
Tijdschrift: RELATIONS
ISSN: 2280-9643
Issue: 1-2
Volume: 8
Pagina's: 115 - 134
Jaar van publicatie:2020