Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2017

Major Department or Program

Gender Studies


Lydia McDermott


Critiquing animal rights theorists' appropriation of disability for the purpose of argument, and drawing on the work of Adrienne Rich, Robert McRuer, and Alison Kafer, I theorize a system of "compulsory humanity" that illuminates the conceptual interconnectedness of humanity and cognitive rationalism. In my primary case study, I explore how pragmatic animal rights strategies that seek to compare nonhuman animals to neurotypical humans fail to achieve justice for animals and can actually backfire against animal rights goals. I then unpack how "animal intelligence" discourses that perpetuate mind/body dualism can be resisted through a new "octopus feminism" that rejects inadequate liberal feminist strategies. Focusing on the ways that the mandate to possess normative human cognition has marginalized both nonhuman animals and people with disabilities, and writing in the activist tradition of “Nothing About Us Without Us!”, I argue for a new coalitional politics centering around the theory of neurodiversity that seeks liberation for both groups.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Animal Rights Coalition, Animal rights movement, Human beings, Animal intelligence, Rationalism, Human-animal relationships -- United States, Animals, People with disabilities, Civil rights -- Animals, Comparative studies -- Cross-species comparison, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Gender Studies

Permanent URL

Document Type

Whitman Community Accessible Thesis

Terms of Use

Non-exclusive license to provide limited access to my scholarly/creative work to the Whitman community via ARMINDA.



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