Minding Animals 3

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Sune Borkfelt - Speaker

Presented the paper "Reading Slaughter: Concealment, Empathy, and Literary Abattoirs". Abstract: Since the middle of the nineteenth century, an increasing effort has been made in Western societies to hide the insides of slaughterhouses from public view and conceal the act of animal slaughter so it does not interfere unnecessarily in our daily lives. Generally, this has made slaughterhouses into some of the most inconspicuous places in our societies, thus helping to separate the act of killing – its smells, sounds and sights – from the meat products we eat. As we rarely encounter animal slaughter in real life, coming across it in fiction will, in a sense, function as a novel experience, while at the same time playing on our knowledge of that which we have willfully concealed, and on our own indirect involvement in the slaughter of non-human animals. Drawing on literary theory regarding ethics and emotions, as well as on sociological theory on slaughterhouses and concealment, this paper discusses how depictions of abattoirs in fiction will necessarily play on the concealment of slaughter in real life, thus drawing attention to the fact of animal slaughter and to the non-human animal itself. In this way, the literary abattoir comes to function as a particular space within which attention is drawn to ethical questions surrounding animal slaughter, even when non-human animals are not the main focus of the narrative. Through readings of fiction by authors as diverse as Upton Sinclair, Ruth L. Ozeki, Neil Astley and Tristan Egolf, this paper discusses how very different literary uses of slaughterhouses and slaughter lead to an emphasis on ethical questions surrounding slaughter and offer interesting possibilities for provoking empathic responses to non-human suffering and death.
13 Jan 201520 Jan 2015


ConferenceMinding Animals 3
LocationJawaharlal Nehru University
CityNew Delhi

ID: 96820342