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International Animal Rights ConferenceInternational Animal Rights Conference
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Friday, 12.09.2014   19:30-20:20   Room A
Phallologocentrism in animal activism: Language as oppression
Agnes Trzak

My presentation would address the discursive system that creates all forms of dominance and oppression. The aim is to firstly contribute to a discussion that shall help us animal rights activists to point out "the connection" to other social justice advocates. Secondly, I aim to critically engage with our own movement, pointing out that abolition and liberation can neither function in non-intersectional ways, nor expect to work in isolation from all other resistance movements. I find this particularly important, as the animal rights movement must constitute a safe space for the humans that form it. By "safe space" I mean, a sphere which seeks to abolish discrimination, oppression and alienation, one that gives a voice to marginalised identities and in which the dominant question their privilege. To point out the ways in which safety is compromised in activist spaces, I aim to expose the concept of (human) privilege which leads to speciesism, (hetero)sexism, ableism and racism. It originates, I argue, in the way we construct language and discourse, which is based on phallologocentrism.

The concept of phallologocentrism denotes the language of patriarchy and assumes that meaning is absolute and fixed. It is based on, firstly, the masculine and secondly, on that which is logical, rational and systematic. Consequently, a systematic binary categorisation is intrinsic to this concept, which enables a hierarchical stratification of all actors into those who are able and potent and those who are not. Together, both of these connotations create a reality that is defined by the privilege of that which communicates phallologocentrically, that is within a patriarchal economy of symbols, signs and meanings. Consequently, this entails the oppression of that which does not or cannot participate in phallologocentric discourse. The ultimate opposition to phallological power is the animal. On the basis of this, my presentation shall firstly investigate what it means to be human in a patriarchy and secondly, expose the construction of identities that can be abused under the rationale of phallologocentrism. These identities are always non-human or not-sufficiently-human, which legitimises their oppression.













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