Scholars of biopolitics widely assume that the life addressed by power = human life, with a reassuring unconsciousness of having left anything at all out of the equation. Recent research contends that animals are at least as much as human beings subject to varied techniques for managing life. Such “zoopolitical” arguments are, however, likely to be effectively defused, given that theories of biopolitics and politics alike assume that human beings are the real subjects of politics and nonhumans are excluded from the possibility of justice. This essay argues that such an assumption overestimates our ability to answer the question, who are the real political animals? Through a reading of Hannah Arendt's critique of human rights, the essay argues that the traditional assumption that political status is available only to human beings relies on the totalizing power of metaphor to confuse human life and politics. It offers an account of the challenge posed to this metaphor in a brief scene from the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Rather than a recognition of political status based on the nature of animals, what such a challenge amounts to is the apprehension by the viewer of his own stupidity.
Alastair Hunt; Just Animals. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2016; 115 (2): 231–246. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3488387
Download citation file: