English 24

Freshman Seminar: Animal Rights and Disability Studies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2009 Schweik, Susan
Schweik, Susan and Taylor, Sunaura
M 5-6 202 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Required texts: See below.


This seminar will examine the intersections between two concepts and two movements: animal rights and disability rights. Exploring work done in gender and women's studies, critical race studies, disability studies, and thinking on animal rights, we will trace some philosophical and historical connections between two seemingly separate fields. From protesting the views held by controversial philosopher (and major animal rights advocate) Peter Singer to making uncomfortable parallels between human and pet "euthanasia," disability advocates have had a tenuous relationship with the animal rights movement. But is this tension inevitable, or is there more common ground to be had? On what basis, and with what consequences, do notions of disability rights and/or human rights found themselves in a moral and ethical philosophy that justifies excluding other species? Can that exclusion be upheld? This seminar will provide a survey of some key points in both disability studies and work on animal rights. We will explore definitions of and questions and controversies regarding some basic terms: "disability," "animality," "rights," "human." Readings will include excerpts of work by Peter Singer, Harriet McBryde Johnson, Simi Linton, Gary Francione, Carol Adams, Bob and Jenna Torres, and Ruth O'Brien. We will also follow two podcasts and watch some films together. Writing: journal entries due in each class with questions and comments on the day's reading, gathered together and expanded into a portfolio at the end of term. Grading will largely be based on participation in class discussions. Debate welcome and expected! No background in these issues is needed or expected. This seminar is part of the Food for Thought Seminar Series. Food for Thought Dining arrangements will be discussed in class.

Susan Schweik is a Professor of English and Co-Director of the Disability Studies Minor at UC Berkeley. She has a strong interest in disability and accessibility issues. Sunaura Taylor (MFA, Berkeley 2008) currently writes for various blogs on the subject of animal rights and is co-editing a book on the relationship between disability studies and animal rights.

This course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required to complete the English major.

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