Capitalism and anthropocentrism: Beyond the trap of intrinsic/extrinsic value?

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Animal Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (MDT)
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Rosemary-Claire Collard, Jessica Dempsey, Kathryn Gillespie
Chairs: Jessica Dempsey


What is the relationship between capitalism and anthropocentrism?

Anthropocentrism can be understood as a set of social relations with material foundations (to paraphrase Hartmann’s [1979] definition of patriarchy), characterized by hierarchical relations between humans and nonhumans. As “a robust, interlocking, complex series of discursive and material practices” (Calarco 2014, 418), anthropocentrism founds exclusions not only along human/nonhuman lines, but also among human beings, where it is at work in what Sylvia Wynter calls a "hierarchy of humanness" (see McKittrick 2014). Finally, anthropocentrism is a dynamic logic of devaluation under capitalism. Several key processes in the formation and evolution of capitalism – colonial expansion, early enclosures in England, witch hunts, Fordism, neoliberalism and so on – were not only about about shifting and consolidating power relations between humans but also between humans and animals, generally in ways that relied on and reinforced anthropocentrism and escalated animal death and confinement.

In this session we are interested in exploring the role of anthropocentrism in the development and operation of capitalism, and how, in turn, capitalist development has shaped anthropocentric understandings of human-nonhuman relations. We hope that working to grasp the relationship between capitalism and anthropocentrism will provide a different lens for understanding and responding to socio-ecological crises such as biodiversity loss. Debates over such crises, it seems to us, become stuck on whether nonhumans have intrinsic or extrinsic value. An open question for this session is whether this persistent intrinsic/extrinsic dualism has been a barrier to forging links between analyses of anthropocentrism and other modes of domination and oppression - and if so, how we might push past the intrinsic/extrinsic trap.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Elizabeth Johnson*, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Killing Anthropos: Tracing the Biological and Economic Excesses of Capital’s Circulations 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Catherine Jampel*, Clark University, Disability, Human Innovation, and Return on Investment: Perpetuating the “Hierarchy of Humanness”? 20 8:20 AM
Discussant Krithika Srinivasan University of Exeter 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Heather Rosenfeld*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, The sanctuary and the hoard 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Kathryn Gillespie Wesleyan University 10 9:20 AM
Discussant Rosemary-Claire Collard Simon Fraser University 10 9:30 AM

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