Historical Social Research

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Thomas Saretzki: Taking Animals Seriously: Interpreting and Institutionalizing Human-Animal Relations in Modern Democracies [Abstract]

Zoopolis by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka (2011) is a very important contribution in the process of rethinking our relationship with animals. But is their proposal to conceptualize animals as co-citizens (in the case of domesticated animals) or as sovereign communities (in the case of wild animals) appropriate and persuasive with regard to the task of restructuring the theoretical foundations and the practical perspectives for transforming human-animal relations in modern democracies? In the face of the epistemological and methodological problems of interpreting animals and their behavior, this contribution argues that we are not on the right track if we try to take animals seriously by interpreting the relationship between them and us without realizing that it will not be possible to communicate with them on a level that can capture the political dimensions of that relationship. While expanding our moral imagination to see animals in new ways may induce new commitments and yield new allies for the animal advocacy movement, the next step required would be to proceed from an extended moral imaginary towards a political theory of human-animal relations which includes perspectives on institutionalization that can come to terms with the problems of moral advocacy in a democracy.

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