Racism in AR acrivism/ veganism (are cruelty free products human cruelty free?) - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 05-25-2011, 04:10 PM
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Just read this article entitled "Race as a 'Feeble Matter' in Veganism: Interrogating whiteness, geopolitical privilege, and consumption philosophy of 'cruelty-free' products" by Amie Breeze Harper (author of Sistah Vegan)in which she argues that the animal rights/ vegan movement, which is noticeably a white middle class phenomenon, uncritically supports and re-creates racial spaces and racialized epistemological (ways of knowing) within the AR/ vegan movement. She specifically hones in on Vegan Outreach and its literature which seems to uncritically portray whites as the animal rights activists offering literature on how to switch to a "cruelty free" diet of vegan products produced overseas in conditions of human cruelty and sometimes (in the case of cotton, chocolate and sugar) conditions of slavery. She says:

Quote:
Although many vegans in the USA believe they are practicing "cruelty free"
consumption by saving the life of a non-human animal by eating vegan chocolate
products, those who purchase non-fair trade cocoa products may be causing cruelty to
thousands of human beings. If a product is not marked in a way that indicates it was
harvested through fair and sweatshop-free practices, then how can one know that it is
human-cruelty free? Who are the non-white racialized populations who are harvesting
chocolate, under conditions of cruelty that help certain3 USA vegans practice modern
ethics through vegan chocolate food consumption? Heres a hint: they are not white
socio-economic class privileged people living in the suburbs of the USA. (Harper 15)

Furthermore:

Quote:
I believe that Vegan Outreach has done amazing work in
educating human beings about the suffering humans cause to non-human animals.
However, my two critiques are that a) animal rights activists pictured on Vegan
Outreachs Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating appear to be all white and b) Vegan
Outreach is advocating Silk and Soy Delicious chocolate products for beginner
vegans in their guide (Vegan Outreach, 2007); both products cocoa sources are not
certified human cruelty free. (Harper 17)

She attacks Silk, Soy Delicious and Turtle Mountain Company; the main producers of vegan products recommended in Vegan Outreach literature, saying:

Quote:
One has to wonder why the Turtle Mountain Company simply does not stop
purchasing chocolate all together, if they cannot afford to buy fairly traded chocolate.
Furthermore, there is mention that the sugar is vegan, but one also does not know if it
was or was not produced through human cruelty practices. It can be assumed that
profit is the motivator to continue purchasing cocoa from a non fair trade resource. It
can also be assumed that saving sea turtles and using sugar, free from bone char refinement, is what makes this vegan treat "ethical" and "cruelty-free," appealing to
many modern day AR/VEG people in the USA. It cannot be overlooked that the
"ethics" of geopolitically racialized production of non fair trade cocoa and sugar for
Turtle Mountain (and its consumers), is not as equally important as ensuring that the
sugar is "bone free" and sea turtles are given the right to self-determination and
survival. If it were, I surmise that Turtle Mountain would have received enough
complaints from consumers (or boycotts) to start buying fair trade ingredients. (Harper 17-18)

White veganism, oblivious to its own white privilege, then "normalizes" a veganism in which "cruelty-free" is defined as "without animal products," completely erasing any ethical concern we should have for the human animal cruelty that went in the production of that product. Harper continues:

Quote:
In the case of the Vegan Outreach guide, is a white racialized, middle-classed
neoliberal USA concept of proper vegan products being exported? Is this a
consequence of white epistemologies of ignorance, "post-racialness," and modernity?
Of practicing AR/VEG activism without fully realizing how all oppressions are
interlocking (Harper, 2010; Smith, 2007), and that it may be just as "cruel" to eat
animals as it is to eat food and textiles produced by enslaved humans on a cocoa,
sugar, or cotton plantations? (Harper 19)

Her basic point being, of course, that no matter how critical of speciesism vegans and AR activists are, many of them have inadvertently allowed the socio-spatial norm of whiteness to influence their activism, how they think of the issues at hand, and how they recommend solutions. Enmired in racialized consciousness, AR/vegan activists, while trying to resist the speciesist structures of society and culture, affirm and reify the racist structures of society that create the very products by which AR/vegan activists are enabled in their resistance. And the normalization of white middle class veganism simply incorporates a racial worldview unthinkingly and, working upon that basis, blinds people from realizing the ways that in trying to resist animal cruelty they perpetuate human cruelty. Harper concludes:

Quote:
People involved in vegan food activism encounter fear, denial, and defensiveness
from people benefiting from institutionalized speciesism "as the norm," all the time.
In the same manner that such people cannot easily see why they should be concerned
with speciesism, certain white AR/VEG activists cannot see how they benefit from
institutionalized whiteness "as the norm" or how this impacts their engagement with
veganism. I hope this essay will engage those with a "post-racial" or "race is a feeble
matter" attitude to critically re-think their perception of race and how they may
contribute to social injustice within vegan and animal rights activism. (Harper 25)

So my interest in bringing this article to your attention is: do you think she has a point? Is there truth to what she says about how the AR/vegan movement incorporates racial reasoning into its methodology and epistemology while resisting speciesist reasoning? Or do you think she is reading racism into the AR/vegan movement, racism that may not be there?

I know we've had this discussion before in the "Indigenous Veganism" thread Werewolf Girl started, a thread in which I haltingly tried to explain what I saw as racial imperialist tendencies in the AR/vegan movement. Well, this woman explains it a lot better than I was trying to. So, what'd'y'all think?

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#2 Old 05-25-2011, 05:17 PM
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Who do you think suffers more, Rotoshave? Underpaid human workers or chickens who can't even spread their own wings? Vegan Outreach does not exist to promote a perfect, saintly lifestyle but to reduce the suffering in the world where it hurts the most.

Tam! RUGH!
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#3 Old 05-25-2011, 05:25 PM
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LOL that's kind of funny.

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#4 Old 05-25-2011, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh James xVx View Post

Who do you think suffers more, Rotoshave? Underpaid human workers or chickens who can't even spread their own wings? Vegan Outreach does not exist to promote a perfect, saintly lifestyle but to reduce the suffering in the world where it hurts the most.

I think we get in trouble when we start making a hierarchy of people who deserve ethical consideration based on how much they suffer. Shouldn't we be against discrimination and oppression in all its forms? Not to even mention that in Florida, Western Africa and Uzbekistan people are being enslaved to produce the products we eat. I tend to think an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Yes, I think non-human animals deserve special attention because of how widespread, systemic and unquestioned the systems that enslave them are. But a vegan/ AR movement that fails to take into account how interconnected all forms of oppression are fails to really understand what it is up against and how it should best use its resources to resist it.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#5 Old 05-25-2011, 06:00 PM
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I'm pretty sure the average vegan is more or less concerned with the treatment of human workers.

I could be wrong, but vegans tend to be pretty liberal when it comes to workplace conditions.
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#6 Old 05-25-2011, 06:02 PM
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I'm pretty sure the average vegan is more or less concerned with the treatment of human workers.

I could be wrong, but vegans tend to be pretty liberal when it comes to workplace conditions.

Being concerned with and actively seeking to find ways to resist oppressive workplace conditions are two different things.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#7 Old 05-25-2011, 06:34 PM
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I honestly don't know if there is racism in the AR movement or not, but I hope not. But I'm not so sure that the AR movement can have or should have social justice for humans as one of it's primary concerns. If we are really working to reduce animal suffering, I think the message gets diluted when you add too many other parameters. That I choose to drink soy milk does not mean that I do not support social justice, it simply means that I choose not to support animal cruelty.

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#8 Old 05-25-2011, 06:45 PM
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Rotoshave, could you define and give examples of the following:

a) racialized epistemology
b) spatial norm
c) the epistemology of the AR / vegan movement

?

I think presenting an image of vegans as all white, and human exploitation involved in various products free of animal products, are both very valid concerns.

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#9 Old 05-25-2011, 06:53 PM
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I don't think it promotes racism on any level - racism being a prejudice. People aren't eating certain foods for the purpose of supporting industries that are abusive to a certain type of people, it's just something that goes overlooked. It's really hard to be a perfect consumer, and while larger organizations like VO should look more into these things, I don't think there's any intentional favoritism of skin color here.

Also, I think veg*nism tends to happen more amongst white people - who, more often, have the resources and don't have as much of a cultural burden on their shoulders. For some people, removing meat products from their diet means they can't participate in enjoying cultural food, and they feel like they're forsaking their heritage. I've talked to at least two different Mexican girls who liked the idea of vegetarianism, but refused to give up food their parents make.
Also, white yuppies (myself included...) like to "I'm doing something good for the world" feeling, especially when it makes them feel superior to others.
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#10 Old 05-25-2011, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

Rotoshave, could you define and give examples of the following:

a) racialized epistemology
b) spatial norm
c) the epistemology of the AR / vegan movement

I'm not absolutely sure, because the author did not define these terms (I was following the author when I used them in my post), but the way I read them is:

-racialized epistemology: the ways in which the structures of our thoughts; ie the way we categorize the world and organize and compartmentalize it into understandable structure for us to make sense of the world, is informed by racial categories coloring our experience of the world through racial discourse. Epistemology, of course, means the ways in which we know things and so a racialized epistemology, I would say, would be an epistemology appropriate by racism that manufactures or produces cultural or social knowledge in racialized ways.

-spatial norm: not sure about what this means at all, but in her abstract Harper writes "however, space, vegan or not, is raced and simultaneously sexualized and gendered directly affecting individuals and place." SO I think this has something to do with the notion that racialized epistemologies create racialized spatial norms, or places that are given racial meanings such as the "black" third world, the "white" first world, white suburbs, black inner cities, etc. I used the term to get at how racism, or whiteness, takes the raw data of our environments and manufactures a racialized meaning out of them.

-the epistemology of the AR / vegan movement: just the way in which the AR/vegan movement manufactures knowledge based on its philosophical convictions.

Also, I discovered that there is a typo in this thread title (the word activism is spelled wrong). If a mod should be so kind... I appreciate it.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#11 Old 05-25-2011, 08:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poppy View Post

I'm not so sure that the AR movement can have or should have social justice for humans as one of it's primary concerns. If we are really working to reduce animal suffering, I think the message gets diluted when you add too many other parameters. That I choose to drink soy milk does not mean that I do not support social justice, it simply means that I choose not to support animal cruelty.

Agreed. I do my best to avoid contributing to human suffering where I can, but my focus with veganism is reducing animal suffering.

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#12 Old 05-25-2011, 08:59 PM
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I honestly don't know if there is racism in the AR movement or not, but I hope not. But I'm not so sure that the AR movement can have or should have social justice for humans as one of it's primary concerns. If we are really working to reduce animal suffering, I think the message gets diluted when you add too many other parameters. That I choose to drink soy milk does not mean that I do not support social justice, it simply means that I choose not to support animal cruelty.

I agree in part. It's true the AR movement needs to maintain its distinctiveness in order to effectively challenge speciesist structures in this world. However, I don't think it should be blind to the ways in which its concerns intersects with the concerns of other social justice issues. How are we ever going to learn to treat non-human animals with the respect they deserve if we can't even treat members of our own species with that respect?

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#13 Old 05-25-2011, 09:33 PM
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Who do you think suffers more, Rotoshave? Underpaid human workers or chickens who can't even spread their own wings? Vegan Outreach does not exist to promote a perfect, saintly lifestyle but to reduce the suffering in the world where it hurts the most.

WOW.

I forgot the first rule of VB: Never ever criticize Vegan Outreach. Human injustices are just as bad as injustices done to animals and there is no reason why we can't work to reduce both.

"If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company."
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#14 Old 05-25-2011, 10:36 PM
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I don't think veganism has anything to do with human rights, by definition, nor should it. However, a decent person will be concerned with the rights of humans as well as the rights of nonhuman animals.
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#15 Old 05-25-2011, 10:41 PM
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I don't see how being vegan makes you MORE likely to contribute to the suffering of human workers, surely it must be the same as an omni? So I don't see how it is a racist movement :/
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#16 Old 05-25-2011, 11:26 PM
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I don't see how being vegan makes you MORE likely to contribute to the suffering of human workers, surely it must be the same as an omni? So I don't see how it is a racist movement :/

Seriously. There's lots of information about how workers in the meat industry, especially illegal immigrants, are exploited and abused by their employers. Certainly nowhere nearly as badly as the animals, however it is without a doubt one of the most brutal industries in which anyone can work in.
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#17 Old 05-26-2011, 04:21 AM
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Being concerned with and actively seeking to find ways to resist oppressive workplace conditions are two different things.

True.

I doubt the level of active participation proves anyone is a racist though, no more than the lack of participation in Darfur makes us all guilty of being for genocide.
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#18 Old 05-26-2011, 07:03 AM
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True.

I doubt the level of active participation proves anyone is a racist though, no more than the lack of participation in Darfur makes us all guilty of being for genocide.

Just to be clear... I'm not calling anyone a racist. Just saying that the vegan/ AR movement is as blind as the omni world to the ways in which racism manufactures knowledge and spaces and creates inequities and in this case, compromises the values (or at least does not allow those values to extend to certain groups of human animals) of the AR/ vegan movement.

Also... I leaflet for Vegan Outreach (and Mercy for Animals). I consider myself part of the organization. It is often the things you love the most you can criticize for its shortsightedness. I think the ways in which the AR/ vegan movement is compromised by racism can be easily resolved if we put our mind to it.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#19 Old 05-26-2011, 07:09 AM
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I don't think veganism has anything to do with human rights, by definition, nor should it. However, a decent person will be concerned with the rights of humans as well as the rights of nonhuman animals.

I view veganism as the promotion of justice and well-being for all--regardless of their species membership. My view would include humans, although they are only a microscopically small proportion of the total living beings included.
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#20 Old 05-26-2011, 07:44 AM
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My thoughts, in no particular order:
- Harper's criticisms are valid
- her criticisms apply to everyone, not just AR activists
- VO lit is the best available (that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement, there is. But since it's the best available and is effective, that makes it worthwhile)
- finding fair trade items often requires special stores, whereas finding vegan items does not, making veganism more accessible (for example, the only place where I can buy fair trade bananas is at Whole Foods, ironically fair trade coffee is more widely available however)
- in Vegas, leafleting at the colleges reaches more of a racially diverse group of people than leafleting at concerts or festivals (this is probably true for most US cities)
- Harper could make her criticisms more accessible/better understood (thus more likely to influence change) by choosing simpler language
- I personally see more racism (as well as sexism) in response to specific animal cruelties. Michael Vick, for example.
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#21 Old 05-26-2011, 08:12 AM
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ElaineV -- Buying fair trade coffee at Whole Foods might that you are supporting an organization which attacks unions.

Which leads me to suggest another thought for your list:

- It's easy to figure out if a food is vegan or not. It's hard to figure out if a food supports fair, livable wages and a decent working environment for everyone in it's supply chain.
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#22 Old 05-26-2011, 08:20 AM
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I also wanted to add that the current version of the Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating that features more diversity:
http://www.veganoutreach.org/guide/gce.pdf
That specific criticism of VO no longer applies.
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#23 Old 05-26-2011, 08:24 AM
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- her criticisms apply to everyone, not just AR activists

I think we have a special duty, as people who resist one form of oppression against the "least of these" to resist all forms of oppression whether they are against pigs, cows, chickens, non-white human animals, homosexual human animals or female human animals.
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- VO lit is the best available (that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement, there is. But since it's the best available and is effective, that makes it worthwhile)

Agreed, though at some point we should make an effort at being more inclusive/ making our literature more inclusive. VO lit is useful, it gets the point across, but it is also problematic in some ways, so we should make an effort to fix those problems.
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- finding fair trade items often requires special stores, whereas finding vegan items does not, making veganism more accessible (for example, the only place where I can buy fair trade bananas is at Whole Foods, ironically fair trade coffee is more widely available however)

This is true to some extent. For example, I have only been able to find vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast, and other essential vegan products I use at Whole Foods.
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- Harper could make her criticisms more accessible/better understood (thus more likely to influence change) by choosing simpler language

This is also true, though she was writing to an academic audience (the Journal of Critical Animal Studies).
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- I personally see more racism (as well as sexism) in response to specific animal cruelties. Michael Vick, for example.

Like you said earlier, this is a problem we share with omnis... however as a group dedicated to championing animal rights and animal liberation, I think we have a special duty to not ignore human rights and human liberation as well.
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I also wanted to add that the current version of the Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating that features more diversity:
http://www.veganoutreach.org/guide/gce.pdf
That specific criticism of VO no longer applies.

You're right... though it still recommends non-fair trade sourced vegan products.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#24 Old 05-26-2011, 08:33 AM
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ElaineV -- Buying fair trade coffee at Whole Foods might that you are supporting an organization which attacks unions.

Which leads me to suggest another thought for your list:

- It's easy to figure out if a food is vegan or not. It's hard to figure out if a food supports fair, livable wages and a decent working environment for everyone in it's supply chain.

Wait!
I buy my fair trade bananas at WF. I get my whole bean coffee at Trader Joes it's the fair trade organic breakfast blend coffee and it's really good

To your point: there are fair trade labels but they only apply to few specific foods (like sugar, chocolate, coffee, bananas). There's no way of knowing if a food is fair trade or not without a label. But a banana is always vegan. Vegan = the absence of animal products, nothing more or less. The problem is in equating the term "cruelty-free" with "vegan." similarly, words like "boycott" don't accurately apply to veganism. These are issues in our movement - where people attribute meaning and intent to the word "vegan" when in reality it only describe behavior or ingredients. A conflict exists: it's easier, more appealing, and likely more effective to describe veganism as more than simple habit, as a philosophy.
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#25 Old 05-26-2011, 08:38 AM
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-racialized epistemology: the ways in which the structures of our thoughts; ie the way we categorize the world and organize and compartmentalize it into understandable structure for us to make sense of the world, is informed by racial categories coloring our experience of the world through racial discourse. Epistemology, of course, means the ways in which we know things and so a racialized epistemology, I would say, would be an epistemology appropriate by racism that manufactures or produces cultural or social knowledge in racialized ways.

-spatial norm: not sure about what this means at all, but in her abstract Harper writes "however, space, vegan or not, is raced and simultaneously sexualized and gendered directly affecting individuals and place." SO I think this has something to do with the notion that racialized epistemologies create racialized spatial norms, or places that are given racial meanings such as the "black" third world, the "white" first world, white suburbs, black inner cities, etc. I used the term to get at how racism, or whiteness, takes the raw data of our environments and manufactures a racialized meaning out of them.

-the epistemology of the AR / vegan movement: just the way in which the AR/vegan movement manufactures knowledge based on its philosophical convictions.

Thank you.

Your explanation for 'racialized epistemology' sounds like something that could already be rendered by the term she introduced at some point: racialized consciousness. I find the latter term more intelligible than the former, although it too should be accompanied by actual examples of what forms such a racialized consciousness can take and (in this case) how they are present in the context of vegan outreach.

By the way, the term 'racialized consciousness' relates to the previous discussions we've had on racism: it

Quote:
replace[s] racism as the traditional operative term in discourses on race. The concept of racialized consciousness will help us examine the ways in which consciousness is shaped in terms of racist social structures... 'Racialized consciousness' is a term that will help us understand why even the well-intentioned white liberal who has participated in the struggle against racism may perpetuate a form of racism unintentionally

See, that is showing how deeply rooted racism is in culture -- and how even well-intentioned people can end up reinforcing it or participating in it -- but does so without making the confusing "white -> racist" argument that you advocated. The notion of 'racialized consciousness' does not get caught in the problem of a very defeatist attitude, or the problem of robbing 'racism' of its condemning, pejorative power. And it doesn't require any further clarifications about how bigotry and racism differ etc. So I find it a far better way to frame the issue. (Although, like I said, even that term should be accompanied by examples of what forms the racialized consciousness has taken in a given context.)

As to the AR epistemology, can you give an example of how the AR movement manufactures knowledge? Does this mean physically producing information (printing books and leaflets), or does it mean creating theories and moral/political concepts that inform how people view the world?

--

As you can probably guess, my problem with Harper's paper is that it buries certain very valid points and concerns under a theoretical vocabulary which she uses in an extremely vague way and which is not really necessary at all to presenting her points. It seems like obfuscation and unnecessary verbosity to me, and I suspect she uses it just to meet some standards of academic writing.

For example, near the very beginning of the paper (italics removed):

Quote:
Veganism [...] is about the ongoing struggle to produce socio-spatial epistemologies of consumption that lead to cultural and spatial change; it is about contesting the dominance of animal-product consumption narrative that is central to, and dominant in, the socio-historical as well as present nation-building rhetoric of the United States.

What are "socio-spatial epistemologies", especially in the context of veganism? Theoretical studies (logos) about how the world is perceived ("known") in certain social situations and spatial locations? Or ways of knowing the world (ways of conceptualizing non-human animals, say) which are determined by, or restricted to, a given location and social context? And if it means the latter, what are those "ways of knowing" in the context of veganism?

And what is the "spatial change" that veganism as a political movement is trying to accomplish? Political change restricted to certain spatial locations (Europe, US)? Political change that affects the "social space" (whatever the hell that is in this context)? It seems to me that what vegan outreach is trying to accomplish is change in the number of animals exploited and change in people's empirical and moral beliefs about animals -- what has this to do with space/spatiality? Vegan outreach may be trying to change the treatment of animals in "the west" -- which is a "space" -- but I dunno why one would therefore want to use the term "spatial change"; that is just confusing.

And what is "socio-historical rhetoric of the United States", and how does animal consumption play a part in it?

How about "vegan spaces" -- what are they? Are they norms, communities, social situations .. what? She refers to some authors who argue that "space is raced" but doesn't clarify what those authors mean by 'space'. At some point she talks about "psychic space"; at another about "social space". Is 'space' to be treated as equivalent to 'social space' throughout her paper, or is it a distinct concept? And again, what does even "vegan social space" consist of?

Definitions and examples would be sorely needed.

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made of weak and useless men"

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#26 Old 05-26-2011, 08:50 AM
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I don't think vegans have "a special duty" that's far above and beyond the duties of other people.
No, not at all!
I think everyone has a duty to oppose oppression, discrimination, othering, etc. to the extent that we are able, with some practical exeptions, seeing as how fighting all oppression all at once can be an excessive burden as well as unlikely to be effective.
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#27 Old 05-26-2011, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

I don't think vegans have "a special duty" that's far above and beyond the duties of other people.
No, not at all!
I think everyone has a duty to oppose oppression, discrimination, othering, etc. to the extent that we are able, with some practical exeptions, seeing as how fighting all oppression all at once can be an excessive burden as well as unlikely to be effective.

By "special duty" I didn't mean we have some greater ethical prescription to be anti-racist, feminists or LGBTQ allies more than the general population. What I meant was that we would be hypocrites to our own philosophical and ethical convictions if we didn't stand, in some way, in solidarity with other movements towards social justice.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#28 Old 05-26-2011, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

I don't think vegans have "a special duty" that's far above and beyond the duties of other people.
No, not at all!
I think everyone has a duty to oppose oppression, discrimination, othering, etc. to the extent that we are able, with some practical exeptions, seeing as how fighting all oppression all at once can be an excessive burden as well as unlikely to be effective.

^- I agree with this.
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#29 Old 05-26-2011, 12:29 PM
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Hello all,

I have led a vegan diet-lifestyle for 5 years and I consider it a very important part of my life and personal politics. I am also a big fan of Breeze's work and believe that she is making crucial contributions to academia across disciplines , the vegan and eco-sustainability movements, and also communities of color exploring the connections between colonialism and health disparities, among other issues.

One of the issues raised here is that Breeze's language is excessively theoretical and difficult for non-academics to decipher. While I can undertand people's frustrations with academic language in general, we need to recognize her audience as well as the demands placed on her as a woman of color striving to have her work taken seriously in the academic establishment. She is not solely working to transform the vegan movement but is also working to contribute to an array of academic discourses in which many existing leaders will look for reasons to discredit her. If her social identity as a black woman weren't enough, consider that she is raising questions and leveling critiques not commonly voiced and that require people to interrogate both their social identities and their personal practices (e.g. connecting racial and animal liberation struggles). Meanwhile, she received quite a lot of criticism for her Sistah Vegan anthology which, though it included some academic writing, was primarily a collection of personal reflections and creative works. A number of people tried to discredit the book, framing the voices in it as inarticulate and angry (see this: http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/2...-women-vegans/). It's truly a Catch-22. I would recommend checking out this book if you would like a less jargon-laden window into the conversation and are ready to challenge yourself on issues of social oppression (because you will miss the point of this book otherwise, as so many unfortunately have).
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#30 Old 05-26-2011, 01:12 PM
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Thank you.

Your explanation for 'racialized epistemology' sounds like something that could already be rendered by the term she introduced at some point: racialized consciousness. I find the latter term more intelligible than the former, although it too should be accompanied by actual examples of what forms such a racialized consciousness can take and (in this case) how they are present in the context of vegan outreach.

By the way, the term 'racialized consciousness' relates to the previous discussions we've had on racism: it

See, that is showing how deeply rooted racism is in culture -- and how even well-intentioned people can end up reinforcing it or participating in it -- but does so without making the confusing "white -> racist" argument that you advocated. The notion of 'racialized consciousness' does not get caught in the problem of a very defeatist attitude, or the problem of robbing 'racism' of its condemning, pejorative power. And it doesn't require any further clarifications about how bigotry and racism differ etc. So I find it a far better way to frame the issue. (Although, like I said, even that term should be accompanied by examples of what forms the racialized consciousness has taken in a given context.)

Well, I thought we had buried that hatchet, and I don't really feel like digging it back up again (I still hold by my old position, but have been less vocal about it given that the ensuing conversation rarely leads to anything fruitful)... but I agree. Racialized consciousness is indeed a useful way of understanding how an epistemology of racial essences (essence here meaning innate characteristics of a person based on certain factors, race, sex or species) creates and re-creates itself in culture and society, and also helps us understand how its ability to create racial meanings is rooted in its domination of so-called "psychic space." I think the difference between racialized epistemology and racialized consciousness is epistemology is the framework which imposes racial meanings onto the mind, whereas the state of having one's mind infected or occupied by racial meanings is the racial consciousness.

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As to the AR epistemology, can you give an example of how the AR movement manufactures knowledge? Does this mean physically producing information (printing books and leaflets), or does it mean creating theories and moral/political concepts that inform how people view the world?

I think by an AR epistemology Breezer means a psychological structure that will manufacture anti-speciesist meanings and help us understand our environment and the objects and living things in it through a psychological structure that will imbue value and worth and moral relevance in animals and will tear down the socially constructed division between human animals and non-human animals. So where we may talk about a speciesist epistemology, resulting in a speciesist consciousness... an AR epistemology is the exact opposite, a resistant epistemology to the systems of meaning-manufacture in the socially constructed norm of speciesism.

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As you can probably guess, my problem with Harper's paper is that it buries certain very valid points and concerns under a theoretical vocabulary which she uses in an extremely vague way and which is not really necessary at all to presenting her points. It seems like obfuscation and unnecessary verbosity to me, and I suspect she uses it just to meet some standards of academic writing.

I think kaitlin gave a sufficient response to your problem with her excess verbosity, so I will not repeat it. I will, however, try to provide some definitions of the phrases you highlighted (at least I'll tell you how I understood these terms).

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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

What are "socio-spatial epistemologies", especially in the context of veganism? Theoretical studies (logos) about how the world is perceived ("known") in certain social situations and spatial locations? Or ways of knowing the world (ways of conceptualizing non-human animals, say) which are determined by, or restricted to, a given location and social context? And if it means the latter, what are those "ways of knowing" in the context of veganism?

In the abstract she writes:
Quote:
Racialized places and spaces are at the foundation of how we develop our socio-spatial epistemologies;

Later she ties the term specifically to whiteness:
Quote:
While veganism itself does create oppositional spaces of consumption that challenge the standard spaces of American carnicentric diet, this essay will explore how mainstream vegan praxis simultaneously creates socio-spatial epistemologies of whiteness that remain invisible to most white identified people.

I think, then, that a socio-spatial epistemology is one which produces meaning for us in how we orient ourselves to our environment (spatial) and to society (socio). So I think it is closer to your first guess. In this case such an epistemology creates the popular notion of animals as property and the locations of their bodies as a medium for human animal wants and desires, outside the human realm. In the case of veganism I think such an epistemology would be welcoming of the non-human animal into the human sphere.

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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

And what is the "spatial change" that veganism as a political movement is trying to accomplish? Political change restricted to certain spatial locations (Europe, US)? Political change that affects the "social space" (whatever the hell that is in this context)? It seems to me that what vegan outreach is trying to accomplish is change in the number of animals exploited and change in people's empirical and moral beliefs about animals -- what has this to do with space/spatiality? Vegan outreach may be trying to change the treatment of animals in "the west" -- which is a "space" -- but I dunno why one would therefore want to use the term "spatial change"; that is just confusing.

I think space here refers to the medium in which epistemology takes root and creates meaning, see my response to "vegan spaces" below. So creating "spatial change" refers to creating change in these psychic and social spaces... ie re-narrating non-human animal life as dignified and worthy or moral relevancy and respect. And that, of course, is the realm or changing people's moral and empirical beliefs about animals. what VO is doing.

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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

And what is "socio-historical rhetoric of the United States", and how does animal consumption play a part in it?

Something to do with Manifest Destiny, capitalism and humanocentrism (even white-centerdness)?

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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

How about "vegan spaces" -- what are they? Are they norms, communities, social situations .. what? She refers to some authors who argue that "space is raced" but doesn't clarify what those authors mean by 'space'. At some point she talks about "psychic space"; at another about "social space". Is 'space' to be treated as equivalent to 'social space' throughout her paper, or is it a distinct concept? And again, what does even "vegan social space" consist of?

Definitions and examples would be sorely needed.

I think Harper uses the word "space" here to refer to the medium which epistemologies, or structures of meaning creation, occupy. Thus psychic space is the realm in which racialized epistemologies find root and shape how we perceive the world. And social spaces are the manifestations or racialized epistemologies in society; in societal laws, practices, norms, mores, etc. Therefore a "raced space" goes back to racialized consciousness but also refers to how social spaces are also raced, which comes close to talking about institutional racism (though I think that the way in which she uses it emphasizes a much more diffused power than institutionalized racism usually indicates).

I admit that I have only read this article of Harper's and if she means something completely different by these terms that she explains in other works of hers, I wouldn't know. Perhaps kaitlin could point us to how we might understand these terms, given that you are much more versed then the rest of us in Harper's work?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonn1997 View Post

I view veganism as the promotion of justice and well-being for all--regardless of their species membership. My view would include humans, although they are only a microscopically small proportion of the total living beings included.


I think veganism at its philosophical and ethical foundations cannot ignore the suffering non-human animal.

"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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