Now that supposedly distinguishing marks of humanity, from reasoning to tool use, have been found in other species, how can we justify discriminating against nonhuman animals solely on the basis of their species? And how must cultural studies and critical practices change to do justice to "others" who are not human? In "Animal Rites", Cary Wolfe examines contemporary notions of humanism, ethics and animals by reconstructing a little known but crucial underground tradition of theorizing the animal from Wittgenstein, Cavell and Lyotard to Levinas, Derrida, Zizek, Maturana and Varela. Through detailed readings of how discourses of race, sexuality, colonialism and animality interact in 20th-century American culture - Hemingway's fiction, the film "The Silence of the Lambs", Michael Crichton's novel "Congo" - Wolfe explores what it would mean, in theory and critical practice, to take seriously "the question of the animal". A pathbreaking contribution to discussions of posthumanism, "Animal Rites" should interest readers in a wide range of fields, from science and literature to philsosophy and ethics, from animal rights and ecology to literary theory and criticism.
Cary Wolfe is professor of English at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author, most recently, of Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics of the "Outside" and the editor of Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal.