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A beautifully written, deeply provocative inquiry into the intersection of animal and disability liberation – and the debut of an important new social critic
How much of what we understand of ourselves as "human" depends on our physical and mental abilities – how we move (or cannot move) in and interact with the world? And how much of our definition of "human" depends on its difference from "animal"?
Drawing on her own experiences as a disabled person, a disability activist, and an animal advocate, author Sunaura Taylor persuades us to think deeply, and sometimes uncomfortably, about what divides the human from the animal, the disabled from the nondisabled – and what it might mean to break down those divisions, to claim the animal and the vulnerable in ourselves, in a process she calls "cripping animal ethics".
Beasts of Burden suggests that issues of disability and animal justice – which have heretofore primarily been presented in opposition – are in fact deeply entangled. Fusing philosophy, memoir, science, and the radical truths these disciplines can bring – whether about factory farming, disability oppression, or our assumptions of human superiority over animals – Taylor draws attention to new worlds of experience and empathy that can open up important avenues of solidarity across species and ability. Beasts of Burden is a wonderfully engaging and elegantly written work, both philosophical and personal, by a brilliant new voice.
Sunaura Taylor is an artist and writer based in New York City. She has written for AlterNet, American Quarterly, BOMB, the Monthly Review, Qui Parle, and Yes! Magazine. She has contributed to the books Ecofeminism, Defiant Daughters, Occupy!, Stay Solid, and Infinite City. Taylor and Judith Butler's conversation is featured in the film Examined Life and the book of the same title, published by The New Press.
"Judith Butler meets St. Francis of Assisi."
– The New Yorker
"From one of the foremost chroniclers of the twentieth century's other great dilemma, we now have this powerful set of reflections on climate change – they set in useful and vivid context this great crisis, and will be of use to all as we try to think our way through it."
– Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
"I am not the same animal I was before I read this book."
– Alison Kafer, author of Feminist, Queer, Crip
"Finally, finally someone has come along to undo all the damage Peter Singer has done. Beasts of Burden is a brave and brilliant book."
– Michael Berube, author of Life as We Know It and The Secret Life of Stories
"Beasts of Burden is a game-changer."
– Marc Bekoff, author of Rewilding Our Hearts and The Animals' Agenda
"This is a profound and wondrous book. Sunaura Taylor challenges us to rethink what is normal, what is natural, how to measure the value of a life – and how to imagine a world in which both human and nonhuman animals, resplendent in their differences and multiplicity, might flourish."
– Claire Jean Kim, author of Dangerous Crossings
"A powerful blend of sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, personal stories and sharp, passionate writing."
– Lori Gruen, author of Entangled Empathy and Ethics and Animals
"Sunaura Taylor will shake up your categories, turn your world inside-out, and tell you a lot of fascinating and important things you didn't know yet, about your own body and the bodies of others, human and nonhuman, under an inhumane regime. A startling, readable, sometimes hilarious inquiry into the human condition from a whole new direction, this book might be very, very important, a book to stand alongside The Body in Pain and The Human Condition."
– Rebecca Solnit
"Sunaura Taylor has written an amazing book that acts both as an intervention into widely held beliefs about disability and animals and an invitation to reimagine ourselves. Her thoroughly original, brilliant narrative transformed my imagination."
– Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat