Tag Archives: Agamben

How Oliver the Justice Dog shows us what it means to be human

I was somewhat surprised this week to see a post on social media announcing that a dog has received a staff ID card at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU).

While I have no problem with dogs on campus, or indeed the work of Justice Support Dogs International (JSDI), I do find the fact that a dog should receive a human staff ID card somewhat unsettling. This is because it serves to further enshrine a biopolitical discourse surrounding the human and the animal, and goes to show the power of major institutions to dictate the terms on which we define what constitutes the human and the animal.

While some readers may find the news about Oliver fairly innocuous, or even quite fun, the problem is not the card itself, but what the card represents, and the border for inclusion that places a dog above those not included within the formalised university group. In this case, Oliver the dog has more rights than many human employees at the same institution, even though he is incapable of exercising the same human responsibilities that form a part of the membership contract.

In this way, Oliver the Justice Dog reveals something of the operation of power within the biopolitical state through the very act of his exclusory-inclusion within the category of the human. Continue reading »

We are not pigeons! (Or are we?): Animality and the Homeless Conundrum

It was with great interest that I read in the news recently tale of Jennie Platt from Prestwich, who has been so incensed at the installation of anti-homeless spikes in Manchester, that she’s covered them up with cushions. According to Ms Platt, “The building owners are treating human beings like pigeons.”

This line intrigued me, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is the obvious assumption on the part of Ms Platt that we are not like pigeons and should not be treated as such. Yet in reality we all know and accept that we actually are an awful lot like pigeons and share more in common with them than we like to admit. In a way this incident reminds us of the strange Orwellian ‘double-think’ that we all subscribe to on a daily basis. That is, the way that we are at once both human and animal, and define our humanity in relation to, and through the exclusion of, the ‘animal’ other. Continue reading »