2534570676_eb4148e353_zStefanie Fishel, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Posthuman Personhoods: Corporations, Dolphins and Ecological Security

The Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 remains a continuing ecological disaster. Four years after the spill, the cleanup has not been completed. Reports of death and sicknesses in multiple species due to the explosion and spill continue to surface in the news. In March 2014, the 2012 ban on oil exploration in the Gulf was lifted after BP’s successful lawsuit, and the US government will allow the company to bid for contracts and expand their drilling presence in the Gulf.

Specifically, this paper will focus on the plight of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin in the Gulf. In recent years, unprecedented numbers of dolphins are dying and sick—what scientists are calling an “unusual mortality event.” This is most severe in a known heavily impacted area of the Gulf, Barataria Bay, Louisiana. The dolphins play a key role in Gulf’s ecosystem as apex predators, a draw for tourists, and most importantly as the Gulf’s residents. Dolphins are intelligent, speak a complex language, form long-term relationships, and have distinct cultures that should be recognized. Many marine experts, ethicists, and animal rights activists are pushing for international rights for cetaceans, of which dolphins are a part. Given this situation, the paper seeks to interrogate a major theme of the conference: How can a posthuman approach to security make nonhumans integral to human security?

Given the above situation and the focus given by the above question, this paper puts to one side the argument about the moral individuality of particular nonhuman animals—found in the arguments against factory farming, most notably—to think about group rights and penalizing violence that is directed toward particular communities. This avoids the current problem of criminalizing individual animal deaths with all the attendant problems (intent, moral status) and allows the focus to become a legal and ethical one: can the death of groups of dolphins be understood as a something akin to genocide or a crime against humanity? How might a pod of dolphins be seen as a nation or ethnic group in international law? Could we begin to imagine a category that includes “crimes against biodiversity”? This paper will explore the potential that group rights through international treaties like the UN Charter and the Genocide Convention may offer a way to address and punish crimes committed against nonhuman animal groups in the United States.  Using Missouri v. Holland and Bond v. United States as examples of the debates in the constitutional law of foreign affairs and the power of Congress to legislate pursuant to international treaty, this paper hopes to open new discussions on corporate accountability, animal rights, environmental justice, and ecological security.

Listen here:


3164619542_1e37614d71_zErika Cudworth and Stephen Hobden, University of East London

War: The unposed ‘question of the animal’

In our book Posthuman International Relations we made the argument that the discipline of International Relations was deeply anthropocentric. Critics of that view have argued that the discipline is inevitably human centred, in that it deals with human social relations and the interactions of human social formations such as the state. In that book we made a general argument that the character of those interactions, whether individual or at a cumulative level was embedded within a broader set of non-human relations, and in particular with non-human animal species – through, for example, the global food industry.

In this paper we turn to one of the central concerns of the discipline, war. War, for some, is seen as a distinctive activity of the human species. Though along with other claims to exceptionalism for the human such as use of language, tools, politics this is highly debatable. Furthermore, it is an indication of the deeply human-centred character of the discipline that almost none of its central texts make a mention of the very significant roles that non-human animals have in the conduct of war. A central part of our argument is that the character of war itself would have been radically different but for the forced participation by an enormous range of non-human animals (for example, from elephants to goldfish). Various other writers have pointed to how the use of non-human animals has impacted the character of conflict. Even though with the improvements in transportation over the last century non-human animals are less evident in the role of the movements of people and equipment, they still play a significant number of roles in the contemporary war-machines of wealthy countries. The use of donkeys, horses and in particular camels, has been crucial in recent conflicts in poorer regions, such as in Darfur.

Non-human animals then, we will argue, have played a significant role in the conduct of conflicts, both in the past and present.  Drawing on literature from critical animal studies, sociology, and memoirs the paper discusses the enormous variety of roles that non-human animals have played in the conduct of war. We also examine the character of human – non-human animal relations in times of war. Drawing on Cudworth’s work on dog walking communities we consider the possibility of the emergence of human and non-human animal communities. The very significant role of horses in the first world war has been highlighted by Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse, which has been also been produced as a theatre play and as a feature film. In this paper we discuss an alternative human non-human animal community in the context of the conscription of both humans and other animals – the use of camels in the conflict with the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Inter-species relations in situations of combat, like the dog walking communities explored by Cudworth, perhaps suggest the possibilities for ‘potentially fruitful species co-habitations’.


Photo credits:

Photo 1 by Peter Liu Photography ( Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (

Photo 2 by Metro Centric ( Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s