Chandraprabha: On “The Postcolonial Animal”

Essay: The Postcolonial Animal

Author: Philip Armstrong


  1. Postcolonialism has not shown interest in the fate of nonhuman animals. This could be because of the fear f trivializing the issues of human beings.
  2. The similarity between colonial slave trade and modern treatment of animals was shown by Spiegel. Yet he acknowledges that humans find comparison to animals as slur and derogatory.
  3. The native Americans named themselves after the animals they admired. This provides a theme for animal studies which believes that the idea of absolute difference between humans and animals is a result of the colonial legacies of modernity. However, it has two limitations- 1. not all animals are honorable, 2. not all colonized cultures did the same.
  4. So the other option would be to find other affinities between colonization and animal studies- common enemy which is the notions of supremacy based on rational  self and ego.
  5. Another affinity between colonization and animal studies is “agency” or the ability to affect the environment and history which, according to Armstrong, is integral to both postcolonization and animal studies. But, Berger’s idea of “disappearance”of animal and Baudrillard’s idea of the “speechlessness” of animal, agree with Gayathri Spivak who argues “the subalterns cannot speak.” However, other critics attack this as overestimating the colonizer and underestimating the non western cultures.
  6. According to Armstrong, the most promising collaboration between postcolonialism and animal studies is the production of local histories of the roles that animals and their representation have played in colonial and postcolonial transactions.

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