NARRATIVE SOVEREIGNTY, EMOTIONS AND INTERSPECIES RELATIONSHIPS

Rowena Lennox

Abstract


This article engages the claim that narrative is crucial to humans’ capacity to imagine and to know other animals. It brings together the concept of political sovereignty from Derrida, with an evaluation of emotion to analyse narratives about interspecies relationships. I begin by mapping Derrida’s critique of the relationship between violence and scientific knowledge about animals (Derrida 2009: 276–304) onto recent research into relationships between people and dingoes on K’gari (Fraser Island), to delineate how violent epistemologies may underpin humans’ ways of knowing other animals. I then explore the politics of the public education about dingoes on K’gari as they relate to government policies and the way the state exercises power; such state-sanctioned narratives set the discursive tone for the way people know and interact with (this) other species, and disallow other epistemologies. In contrast, creative nonfiction narrators Barry Lopez (Of Wolves and Men, 2004) and Helen Macdonald (H Is for Hawk, 2014) perform their own critiques of inaccurate and controlling narratives about, respectively, wolves and goshawks. I argue that the techniques they use—acknowledging emotion; observing animals’ perceptions, relationships and agency; respecting animals’ ability to resist human-imposed meanings; recognising the limits of human knowledge; and incorporating other voices—provide a framework for how creative writers may narrate
other animals more ethically and more accurately.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/cinder2019art880

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