Societies 2015, 5, 1–11; doi:10.3390/soc5010001
Animal Bodies, Colonial Subjects: (Re)Locating Animality in
Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3,
Canada; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.: +1-780-536-7508
Academic Editor: Chloë Taylor
Received: 10 November 2014 / Accepted: 23 December 2014 / Published: 24 December 2014
Abstract: In this paper, I argue that animal domestication, speciesism, and other modern
human-animal interactions in North America are possible because of and through the
erasure of Indigenous bodies and the emptying of Indigenous lands for settler-colonial
expansion. That is, we cannot address animal oppression or talk about animal liberation
without naming and subsequently dismantling settler colonialism and white supremacy as
political machinations that require the simultaneous exploitation and/or erasure of animal
and Indigenous bodies. I begin by re-framing animality as a politics of space to suggest
that animal bodies are made intelligible in the settler imagination on stolen, colonized, and
re-settled Indigenous lands. Thinking through Andrea Smith’s logics of white supremacy,
I then re-center anthropocentrism as a racialized and speciesist site of settler coloniality to
re-orient decolonial thought toward animality. To critique the ways in which Indigenous
bodies and epistemologies are at stake in neoliberal re-figurings of animals as settler
citizens, I reject the colonial politics of recognition developed in Sue Donaldson and Will
Kymlicka’s recent monograph, Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights (Oxford
University Press 2011) because it militarizes settler-colonial infrastructures of subjecthood
and governmentality. I then propose a decolonized animal ethic that finds legitimacy in
Indigenous cosmologies to argue that decolonization can only be reified through a
totalizing disruption of those power apparatuses (i.e., settler colonialism, anthropocentrism,
white supremacy, and neoliberal pluralism) that lend the settler state sovereignty,
normalcy, and futurity insofar as animality is a settler-colonial particularity.
Keywords: decolonization; animal ethics; settler colonialism; white supremacy; neoliberalism
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“The decolonization of settler colonial forms needs to be imagined before it is practiced.”
—Lorenzo Veracini  (p. 108).
1. Introduction: Critical Animal Studies and Decolonizing Decolonization
It is my contention that Critical Animal Studies (CAS) and mainstream animal activisms have
failed to center an analysis of settler colonialism and therefore operate within “the givenness of the
white-supremacist, settler state”  (p. 10). This theoretical absence is thus a form of colonial violence
wherein indigeneity is invisibilized, wherein the Indigenous body is re-made into a site of modern
impossibility to make possible the re-shaping of animal subjectivities as settler-colonial imaginaries.
However, I am not concerned with decolonizing an academic field imagined through settler modes of
knowledge production. Although some CAS scholars have proposed a framework of “total liberation”
through which all social justice activism addresses colonial and speciesist oppression, they have
framed decolonization as a “responsibility for all who fight for social justice” without centering
indigeneity or calling for both the destruction of the settler state and a repatriation of land to
Indigenous communities  (p. 59). Here, a decolonial theory that is not accountable to Indigenous
politics as a site of colonial rupture erases the referent (the Indigenous body) through which
decolonization was mobilized in the first place. This misrecognition of the Indigenousness of
decolonization not only integrates decolonial thought into a discursive space of sameness (as merely a
social justice project and not one of Indigenous life-makingness), but also colonizes it by re-centering
and therefore re-subjectifying the settler as an acting body—that is, as a body that deploys decolonial
politics without unsettling the colonial history through which settler-colonial life-ways are already
Indigenous death-ways. For instance, in Defining Critical Animal Studies, Anthony J. Nocella II et al.
argue that CAS must advance “a holistic understanding of the commonality of oppressions… in favor
of decentralizing and democratizing society at all levels and on a global basis”  (p. xxvii). This
rendering of “oppressions” as commensurable, however, obfuscates the singularity of settler
colonialism insofar as its irreducible elements are the disappearance of indigeneity and the
sedimentation of settler life-ways as normative. That is, “decolonization wants something different
than [other] forms of justice” and is far too often subsumed into “other civil and human-rights based
social justice projects”  (p. 2). Further, Nocella II’s animal ethic as an ethic that democratizes
nonetheless secures settler sovereignty by merely making the settler state less oppressive (if that is
even possible) and is thus antithetical to decolonization.
Decolonization is therefore “not accountable to settlers or settler futurity” insofar as it calls for the
destruction of the settler state and its associated modes of operability  (p. 35). In other words,
decolonization does not exist as a process through which settlers are encouraged to participate in
“self-transformation”  (p. 52), it is not a politics of allyship, nor is it “a generic term for struggles
against oppressive conditions”  (p. 21). Although radical vestiges of CAS have deployed prison
abolition, anti-capitalism, and anti-racism as analytics through which an intersectional animal ethic is
evidenced, I argue that there are fundamental distinctions between the politics of intersectionality and
decolonization. Intersectionality, for example, grounds critical theory in difference and consequently
stabilizes the settler identity insofar as it seeks reform from within—a “within” that is both embodied
and institutionalized (i.e., through settler identity politics and legislative reform). Decolonization,
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however, cannot exist within these fleshy and architectural spaces of whiteness through which
Indigenous politico-economic structures are anachronized and the totality of decolonization is rendered
unimaginable. Instead, decolonization must problematize the logic of multiculturalism that secures the
settler subject position. Whereas intersectionality, detached from its grounding in black feminist
thought, has become an ahistorical theoretical universality insofar as it has been re-deployed as a social
justice credential, decolonization is always and only rooted in lived experiences of indigeneity, in
unbecoming a site of settler colonialism.
In their critique of the ways in which academia (as an infrastructure of whiteness) has settled and
appropriated decolonization, Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang argue that internal colonialism requires
“the biopolitical and geopolitical management of people, land, flora, and fauna within the ‘domestic’
borders of the imperial nation” [my emphasis]  (pp. 4–5). However, Tuck and Yang do not position
the animal body as the fleshy material(ity) against and through which settler colonialism is
materialized insofar as the oppression of animals and, as I will argue, the (settler-colonial)
politicization of animality progresses the settler state. I therefore contend that we cannot dismantle
speciesism or re-imagine human-animal relations in the North American context without first or
simultaneously dismantling settler colonialism and re-theorizing domesticated animal bodies as
colonial subjects that must be centered in decolonial thought. To re-figure speciesism and
neoliberalized animal subjectivities as vehicles for settler-colonial continuity, I consider the ways in
which an animal ethic is important to decolonial thought by re-framing animality as a politics of space
and introducing anthropocentrism to Andrea Smith’s theorizations of the logics of white supremacy.
I then reject the colonial politics of animal recognition proposed by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka
in Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights to scrutinize contemporary re-configurations of
animality within settler-colonial infrastructures of being. Here, I suggest that Zoopolis is representative
of a neoliberal trend in CAS wherein the re-construction of animality is only conceivable through
settler-colonial epistemologies. However, to refrain from subsuming animal ethics within a discourse
of anthropocentric struggle, I conclude by considering Indigenous cosmologies to offer a decolonial
ethic that accounts for animal bodies as resurgent bodies.
It is thus my contention that animal domestication, speciesism, and other modern human-animal
interactions are only possible because of and through the historic and ongoing erasure of Indigenous
bodies and the emptying of Indigenous lands for settler-colonial expansion. For that reason, we cannot
address animal oppression or talk about animal liberation without naming settler colonialism and white
supremacy as political mechanisms that require the simultaneous exploitation or destruction of animal
and Indigenous bodies. Indeed, the domestication of animal bodies as colonial and capitalist subjects
always already reifies “hegemonic forms of [settler and speciesist] power”  (p. 84). Here, animals
are “always being interpellated by [spatial] recognition” to deploy animal bodies as settler-colonial
utilities  (p. 453). I propose a “politics of space” to conceptualize the ways in which settler moves to
knowing and/or constructing animal bodies and/or subjectivities (re)locates animals within particular
geographic and architectural spaces. The insertion of animal bodies into specific industrialized,
colonized, and vacated spaces (such as (factory) farms, urban apartments, and “emptied” forests) is
therefore the gesture through which animality is made intelligible and material in the settler
imagination. In other words, I argue that colonial animalities are inseparable from the colonized spaces
in which they are subjected and labored. Here, a decolonial animal ethic must also be a land ethic
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insofar as the repatriation of land to Indigenous peoples would logically require a re-articulation
This falsely naturalized relationship between the animal body and colonized spaces must then
become a point of decolonial intervention. That is, settler colonialism itself operates through a militant
and racist politics of territoriality whereby Indigenous lands are physically and symbolically evacuated
to be re-made into settler spaces  (p. 7). This re-making, according to Taiaiake Alfred, is prefigured
by the doctrine of terra nullius in which Turtle Island is imagined to be devoid of ownership prior to
European contact  (p. 45). Precisely because “decolonization… must involve the repatriation of
land” to Indigenous communities  (p. 7), the disassembling of the settler state requires the abolition
of the spaces in which speciesism occurs (i.e., slaughterhouses, research laboratories, butcher shops,
zoos, and amusement parks). Factory farms, for example, are violent colonial geographies wherein the
animal body is subject to surveillance and death to produce capital/commodity products and sustain
carnivorous food cultures  (p. 123). It would thus be anthropocentric to ignore animality if our
politics of decolonization is to disrupt all colonized spaces and liberate all colonized subjects.
Although mainstream animal activists have called for the eradication of factory farms and
slaughterhouses, they mobilize, I argue, through a politics of morality that cannot disrupt capitalist
production on a large scale. The absence of decolonial politics in the animal liberation movement is
further evident in the ways in which activists assist the settler state to invisibilize “the work
[Indigenous peoples] have been doing to protect other animal species”  and have therefore
reproduced the colonial mythology in which indigeneity is incommensurable with social justice
ideologies. Insofar as decolonization is a violent and totalizing gesture that displaces the mechanisms
governing (settler) colonialism  (p. 1), those spaces for animal activism that center whiteness thus
further impossibilize decolonization and leave in tact the power relation that makes speciesism
possible  (p. 142). A decolonial animal ethic must instead center both indigeneity and animality as
sites of anti-colonial possibility.
2. Anthropocentrism, Settler Colonialism, and White Supremacy
In “Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy”, Andrea Smith argues that the “three primary
logics of white supremacy” are slaveability/anti-black racism, genocide, and orientalism, which anchor
capitalism, colonialism, and war respectively  (p. 1). Smith later suggests that “the consequence of
not developing a critical apparatus for intersecting all the logics of white supremacy… is that it
prevents us from imagining an alternative” to the settler-colonial and racial state  (pp. 5–6). To
document the colonization of animal bodies, I suggest that anthropocentrism is the fourth logic of
white supremacy. According to Donaldson and Kymlicka, anthropocentrism is a “moral theory that
takes humanity as its standard”—that is, it is a making of “humanness” that circumscribes the
“essence” of “‘being human’ or of ‘humanity’”  (p. 33). This rendering of humanness as the
objective subject position is, however, a speciesist (and patriarchal) project when personhood is
secured as that which relates “to man and mankind” [my emphasis] . Anthropocentrism, I argue, is
therefore the anchor of speciesism, capitalism, and settler colonialism. This logic holds that settlers (as
reifications of whiteness) are always already entitled to domesticated animal bodies as sites of
commodity/food production, eroticism, violence, and/or companionship; a reality that is possible
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because of a history of animal injury and forced human-animal proximity  (p. 417). Just as Smith’s
original logics intersect through deployments of settler sovereignty and racism, it is my contention that
speciesism intersects with the logic of genocide to secure a capitalist project of animal agriculture that
requires the disappearance of Indigenous bodies from the land  (p. 9). If settler colonialism is to
remain both “territorially acquisitive in perpetuity” and the only postionality through which a body is
entitled to politically act against (or through) animals  (p. 152), then the animal body must always
be interpellated as a colonial subject—that is, as a body subject to settler colonial (mis)recognition.
Anthropocentrism is then a politics of space whereby land is commodified and privatized for animal
agriculture. Although this unsustainable food system uses approximately thirty percent of the Earth’s
land mass and accounts for “nearly half of all water used in the United States” , decolonial thought
has yet to deconstruct the settler-colonial, anthropocentric, and capitalist logics governing animal
agriculture that assume the facticity of settler colonialism.
The logic of anthropocentrism is also militarized through racial hierarchies that further distance the
white settler from blackness and indigeneity as animalized sites of tragedy, marginality, poverty, and
primitivism. That is, black and Indigenous bodies are dehumanized and inscribed (and continually
re-inscribed) with animal status—which is always a speciesist rendering of animality as injuring—to
refuse humanness to people of color and colonized subjects. This not only commits a violence that
re-locates racialized bodies to the margins of settler society as non-humans, but also performs an
epistemic violence that denies animality its own subjectivity and re-makes it into a mode of being that
can be re-made as blackness and indigeneity  (p. 32). While Maria Lugones suggests that the
“modern colonial/gender system” locates animality on the bodies of colonized women to fortify the
ontological particularities of white womanhood  (pp. 202–203), this argument is premised on the
assumption that animality is an attribute (not a form of subjectivity) that violently reduces humanness
to animality. My intention, however, is to trace the ways in which anthropocentrism is weaponized as
white supremacy and to disrupt the speciesist logic that circumscribes anti-colonial theorizations of
animality. Although Smith refers specifically to the ways in which blackness is made enslaveable to anchor
capitalism, she also reminds us that “the capitalist system ultimately commodifies all” bodies  (p. 2).
In that sense, the speciesist re-signification of the animal body as a laboring body within economies of
food and commodity production further attaches the animal to the settler state. If settler colonialism
and white supremacy mobilize through anthropocentrism (and they do) and capitalism requires the
acquisition of Indigenous lands for animal agriculture (and it does), then decolonization is only
possible through an animal ethic that disrupts anthropocentrism as a settler-colonial logic.
3. Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Animal Recognition
In Zoopolis, Donaldson and Kymlicka re-cast animality within the language of “political and
cultural membership” to propose a non-speciesist and deontological re-figuring of human-animal
relations that models contemporary applications of neoliberal citizenship  (p. 14). Donaldson and
Kymlicka suggest that Animal Rights Theory has failed to think beyond negative rights (i.e., the right
not to be killed or confined), and therefore argue that “animals, like humans, should be seen as
possessing certain inviolable rights” as determined by doctrines of human rights  (pp. 4–6). Here,
Donaldson and Kymlicka envisage new human-animal relational duties by re-categorizing
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domesticated animals as citizens, feral animals as denizens, and wild animals as members of sovereign
nations  (p. 13). Although the latter categorizations have implications for Indigenous peoples’
claims to territorial permanence and political autonomy, I contend that the recognition, or rather,
misrecognition of domesticated animal subjectivities re-colonizes the animal body to foreclose it
within settler-colonial infrastructures of subjecthood and governmentality. That is, Zoopolis militarizes
recognition as the hegemonic mode of animal activism to further entrench settler citizenship as the
prima facie mode of post-political and post-colonial existence. Here, settler colonialism is only
afforded a future—that is, it only becomes tangible and prophetic—by locating itself on the bodies of
settler citizens that are always already culturally and corporeally not Indigenous. The problem with
settler citizenship as a model for animality is that it operationalizes animal bodies as “sites of…
phantasmatic” settler promise  (p. 89). In other words, the animal body is re-made into “the
mechanism by which certain sanctioned fantasies… are insidiously elevated as the parameters of
realness”  (p. 89). That is, the animal body’s entrance into discourses of settler citizenship
reproduces the assumed facticity of the settler state as the de facto technology of post-colonial power
(as if colonialism is an historicized and finalized event). In this context, settler colonialism mobilizes
as a non-violent apparatus “to produce forms of life that make settler colonialism’s constitutive
hierarchies seems natural”  (p. 152). Here, settler colonialism generates life forms that interpellate
settler presents and settler futures by re-locating indigeneity to the threshold of settler society as the
frame of reference against which settler citizens are constructed.
I therefore reject the colonial politics of animal recognition proposed by Donaldson and Kymlicka
because it operates within—and consequently upholds—colonial infrastructures of settler citizenship
and neoliberal subjecthood that re-orient animal bodies as the mundane surfaces on which settler
colonialism is discursively reified. I appropriate Coulthard’s “politics of recognition” to suggest that
Donaldson and Kymlicka “reproduce the very configurations of colonial power” that require the
erasure and/or assimilation of Indigenous peoples to re-situate animal bodies into settler political
discourses  (p. 437). Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that domesticated animals should be conferred
citizenship because they “are members of our society” with the “capacity to have and express a
subjective good, to participate, and to cooperate” in settler-colonial polities  (p. 122). This, in effect,
re-makes animals as subjects of neoliberalism (i.e., as objects of speciesism within political economies
of violence) into neoliberal subjects (i.e., as bodies that interpellate neoliberalism as a political
mechanism). As Donaldson and Kymlicka frame “citizenship [as] a cooperative social project… in
which all are recognized as equals” and “all benefit from the goods of social life”  (p. 137), settler
citizenship is centered as if it were a post-racial concept that is operationalized within homogenized
and post-political landscapes of neoliberal pluralism. That is, settler citizenship is romanticized as if
the state governs from a universalized space of sameness that is not characteristically violent and racist.
As a neoliberal delusion of progress that repackages colonial domination by vacating anthropocentrism
from political rhetoric without questioning the very parameters through which such rhetoric is
militarized against Indigenous peoples  (p. 447), Donaldson and Kymlicka’s citizenship model
forecloses radical Indigenous responses to state violence by diffusing settler colonialism’s discursive
and corporeal particularities. This framework then jeopardizes decolonial projects that contest the
genocidal model in which “everything within a settle colonial society strains to destroy or assimilate
the Native in order to disappear them from the land”  (p. 9). Precisely because decolonization “sets
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out to change the order of the world” as “an agenda for total disorder”  (p. 2), a politics of neoliberal
animal citizenship is antithetical to decolonization because it reproduces settler sovereignty and
normalizes the very structure(s) against which Indigenous peoples have mobilized. Thus, that which is
knowable through Donaldson and Kymlicka’s colonial politics of animal recognition is a neoliberal
justice that constitutes and is constituted by settler fantasies of animal re-subjectification as Indigenous
erasure and settler sovereignty.
I thus suggest that Donaldson and Kymlicka’s theory of domesticated animal citizenship is in
actuality a politics of “strategic domestication” in which animal subjectivities are circumscribed by
“the terms of recognition in such a way that the foundation of” settler society is “relatively
undisturbed” and further compartmentalized  (p. 451). I contend that this re-building of animal
ontologies and human-animal relations within the language of citizenship cannot disrupt those power
mechanisms (i.e., capitalism, settler colonialism, and white supremacy) that require the oppression of
both Indigenous and animal bodies. That is, the explicit gesture toward “social and political
integration” advocated in Zoopolis locates animals (as colonized subjects with settler citizenship)
within symbolic and literal spaces of settler coloniality  (p. 153). For instance, Donaldson and
Kymlicka argue that the criminal (in)justice system should be expanded to better “protect” animal
bodies as co-citizens  (p. 132). Imagining the criminal (in)justice system through analytics such as
deterrence, “deserved retribution”, and “protection of basic rights”  (p. 132), Donaldson and
Kymlicka adopt a carceral neoliberalism in which animals as settler citizens are afforded the privilege
of state protection while other bodies (namely Indigenous and black bodies) are subject to police
violence and incarceration as white supremacist tactics of dislocation, dispossession, and disappearance.
That is, the normalization of prisons as settler-colonized spaces works to physically remove people of
color from public spaces that are mediated by logics of white supremacy and white privilege. This
resultantly substitutes forms of economic and/or speciesist violence (i.e., animal abuse) for the racialized
violence of the prison industrial complex as a settler-colonial mechanism. A decolonized animal ethic
would instead recognize the ways in which settler sovereignty is prophesized and exclusivized by a
politics of carcerality that is a “weapon of whiteness” through which Indigenous peoples “disappear
into whiteness”  (p. 6). Here, I reject Donaldson and Kymlicka’s utopian construction of neoliberal
democratic citizenship as fundamentally “equal” to remind readers that all infrastructures and logics of
settler colonialism (i.e., political participation, capitalism, and carcerality) always mobilize against
Indigenous bodies as genocidal and assimilationist gestures  (p. 155). For that reason, modern
re-configurations of animality cannot be oriented towards a politics of neoliberal citizenship and settler
sovereignty. Instead, they must be embedded in a politics of decolonization that recognizes the ways in
which Indigenous bodies and epistemologies are literally at stake in statist re-imaginings of animality.
4. Indigenous Cosmologies, Domesticated Animal Bodies, and Decolonizing Gestures
Although Tuck and Yang argue that “decolonization is [only] accountable to Indigenous sovereignty
and futurity”, they cast decolonization within a discourse of anthropocentric struggle  (p. 35). While
decolonial thought has operated through a social ecologist framework that de-centers environmental
violence and reclaims pre-contact constructions of non-human nature, I suggest that the recognition of
animals as colonial subjects has been absent from Indigenous Studies. That is, contemporary
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decolonial thought has yet to engage with a politics of animality that not only recalls “traditional”
and/or “ceremonial” human-animal relations, but is also accountable to animal subjectivities and
futurities outside settler colonialism and within a project of decolonization. That is, decolonial thought
cannot, for example, demand the repatriation of land as an ecofeminist praxis while simultaneously
advocating for hunting as a recreational activity precisely because hunting has been weaponized as
speciesism to normalize the killability of animals for human ends. Here, I propose a re-centering of
animality through Indigenous cosmologies and epistemologies (specifically Mi’kmaq and Cree) to
propose a decolonial animal ethic.
In Animal Liberation, Peter Singer argues that the Old Testament narrativized anthropocentrism and
speciesism through Christian cosmologies, thereby re-making “human life, and only human life” into a
discursive and corporeal site of sacredness  (p. 191). I argue that a decolonial animal ethic must
operate through a similar narrative logic by using Indigenous cosmologies as frameworks for a
non-speciesist and anti-colonial animality. In “Veganism and Mi’kmaq Legends”, Margaret Robinson
suggests Mi’kmaq cosmologies are shaped through “a model of creation in which animals are portrayed
as our siblings” and thus share a symbiotic form of personhood with human figures  (p. 191) In the
story of “Muin, The Bear’s Child”, for example, a young boy is raised by bears after being abandoned
by his stepfather in a forest  (pp. 192–193). Animals are thus not only imagined as active agents in
Indigenous mythologies but are also capable of creating kinship relations with other (human) animals.
Further, many creation stories from my own Cree community cast animals (such as ravens) in the role
of “Creator” or as the figure through which the Creator acts. Here, animals occupy sacred ceremonial
roles from which the Earth and its occupants are created and are thus not subject to human domination.
Although Robinson examines these legends to propose an Indigenous veganism that finds legitimacy in
traditional Indigenous oral cultures, I want to center these non-speciesist human-animal intra-subjectivities
in decolonial thought. This would also mobilize against settler colonialism as a project of necropolitics
that “is accomplished… through purposeful and ignorant misrepresentations [and rejections] of
Indigenous cosmologies” to legitimize Indigenous erasure  (p. 22). Several of the recommendations
proposed by the animal liberation movement are thus applicable to decolonization. For example,
rejecting animal experimentation, disrupting the commodification of animal bodies, and abolishing
animal agriculture are gestures that can be deployed as anti-colonial gestures that reify decolonial
futurities insofar as these forms of knowledge production, capitalism, and food culture sustain the settler
I however want to present an alternative to the abolitionist/citizenship debate circumscribing
theorizations of animal domesticity to recognize the subjectivities of domesticated animals as
colonized subjectivities  (p. 79). That is, Animal Rights Theory has traditionally operated through
two polarized re-constructions of the domesticated animal. First, scholars such as Gary Francione
argue that domesticated animals inhabit hybrid and/or “unnatural” subjectivities that orient animal
bodies as means to human ends. As a result of this unethical relationship, Francione proposes an
eradication of the domesticated animal because the “intent of domestication” is and was intrinsically
immoral  (pp. 78–79). Conversely, Donaldson and Kymlicka contend that this argument is itself
speciesist and alternatively believe that a citizenship model can create human and domesticated animal
interactions that are reciprocal and non-exploitative  (p. 79). Because I have already argued against
Donaldson and Kymlicka’s citizenship model, I suggest that the erasure of domesticated animals
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would itself be a form of settler-colonial genocide in which colonized subjects are disappeared.
However, it is important to note that settler colonialism constructs death differently for Indigenous and
animal bodies. That is, settler colonialism requires the erasure of indigeneity through genocide or
neoliberal processes of assimilation wherein the colonized subject symbolically abandons indigeneity
for settler ways of living. Here, the corporeal and/or discursive refusal of indigeneity by the settler
state legitimates settler claims to territory and political authority. On the other hand, settler colonialism
wants to produce animal bodies as commodities embedded in a global economy of reiterated
deathliness. Said different, animal bodies that are inserted into capitalist spaces of commodity
production are always already scheduled for death to be consumed as meat, clothing, scientific data,
and so forth  (p. 148).
Although animal domesticity “has been characterized by the coercive confinement, manipulation,
and exploitation of animals for the benefit of” settlers  (p. 73), I contend that contemporary
domesticated animals must first be excised from their colonized subjectivities to be subsequently
re-oriented within ecologies of decolonial subjecthood and re-signified through Indigenous
cosmologies. Similar to the ways in which Indigenous peoples can undergo a violent process through
which we rid our colonial mentalities, I argue that animals can be liberated from their colonized
subjecthood through an aided “process of desubjectification”  (p. 456). That is, thinking through
animality as an infrastructure of decolonization re-positions animal bodies as agents of anti-colonial
resurgence. They can consequently engender “forms of energy that are capable of engaging the forces
that keep [Indigenous people and animals] tied to [a] colonial mentality and reality”  (p. 179).
Settler colonialism has therefore required the normalization of speciesism within Indigenous
communities to obfuscate the radicality of Indigenous-animal relations. In that sense, recalling the
representation of animals in Indigenous cosmologies/oral traditions and unsettling speciesism as a
“colonial mentality” must be prioritized in decolonial thought. Here, it is important to note that the
animal and the Indigenous subject are not commensurable colonial subjects insofar as their experiences
of colonization are different—a decolonial animal ethic must therefore account for these differences.
5. Conclusion: Settler Colonial Particularities
Indigenous Studies and Settler Colonial Studies continue to acknowledge and deconstruct the
“specializations” of settler colonialism, including the ways in which “settler sovereignty imposes
sexuality, legality, raciality, language, religion, and property” onto Indigenous communities as an
assimilationist tactic  (p. 21). However, what imaginaries and subjectivities are foreclosed when our
politics of decolonization is always already anthropocentric? I propose a re-locating of animal
ontologies within decolonial thought that engages critically with the ways in which settler colonialism
objectivizes animal bodies as one of many intersecting settler colonial particularities. That is, I have
attempted to demonstrate that settler colonialism is invested in animality and therefore re-makes
animal bodies into colonial subjects to normalize settler modes of political life (i.e., territorial
acquisition, anthropocentrism, capitalism, white supremacy, and neoliberal pluralism) that further
displace and disappear Indigenous bodies and epistemologies. In that sense, decolonization is not
possible without centering an animal ethic. Although I am sympathetic to the ways in which CAS and
mainstream animal activisms have attempted to re-figure animality outside speciesist logics, I have
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argued that these re-figurings operate within spaces of settler coloniality that are always and only
colonizing gestures that disrupt decolonial futurities precisely because a critique of the settler subject
position in relation to animals has yet to be forwarded. Here, decolonization is not only beneficial to
animals because it demands the dismantling of all settler-colonial infrastructures (including those that
produce and progress speciesism), but would also require a re-signification of animal subjects and
human-animal relations through the non-speciesist and interdependent models of animality envisioned
in Indigenous cosmologies. This, of course, is contingent upon the willingness of Indigenous peoples
(and our allies) to commit to decolonized animal futurities.
I would like to thank the reviewers for providing thoughtful feedback for this article.
Conflicts of Interest
The author declares no conflict of interest.
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