Title

“But Can They Suffer?”: Black Lives and Cecil the Lion

Presenter

Arthur Shemitz

Abstract

In July 2015, the Zimbabwean lion Cecil was killed by an American dentist, leading to widespread outrage across social media. I analyze the counter-discourse that criticized those who were incensed over Cecil’s death for their silence over unarmed African Americans killed by police. I argue that this counter-discourse served to discursively devalue the lives of non-human animals, delegitimize animal advocacy as legitimate social justice work and elide the genuine intersections between animal rights and anti- racism. I do this through use of Rogers Brubaker’s analysis of discourses that place social justice movements in a zero-sum game with each other for societal recognition and Lori Gruen’s call for activists to recognize their common goals rather than tearing each other down. Ultimately, I affirm the validity of animal liberation as complementary to anti- racism, arguing not that “All Lives Matter” but rather that all systematic injustice is significant and worth combating.

Faculty Sponsor

Lydia McDermott

Sponsor Department/Programs

Rhetoric Studies

Tracks

Race and Prejudice

Location

Olin 130

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

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Apr 19th, 2:45 PM Apr 19th, 3:00 PM

“But Can They Suffer?”: Black Lives and Cecil the Lion

Olin 130

In July 2015, the Zimbabwean lion Cecil was killed by an American dentist, leading to widespread outrage across social media. I analyze the counter-discourse that criticized those who were incensed over Cecil’s death for their silence over unarmed African Americans killed by police. I argue that this counter-discourse served to discursively devalue the lives of non-human animals, delegitimize animal advocacy as legitimate social justice work and elide the genuine intersections between animal rights and anti- racism. I do this through use of Rogers Brubaker’s analysis of discourses that place social justice movements in a zero-sum game with each other for societal recognition and Lori Gruen’s call for activists to recognize their common goals rather than tearing each other down. Ultimately, I affirm the validity of animal liberation as complementary to anti- racism, arguing not that “All Lives Matter” but rather that all systematic injustice is significant and worth combating.