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ahimsa & other animals Arrow vol 4 no 3 contents
About borderlands Volume 4 Number 3, 2005

 


Ahimsa
and Other Animals:
The Genealogy of an Immature Politics

 

Leela Gandhi
La Trobe University

 

Homesickness: Preamble

1. It's lunchtime late in the century before last and the young Indian man, whom we must imagine standing hungrily on Farringdon Street, is not charmed by London. At least not today, Monday, October 22, 1888, a grey day announcing the irrevocable onset of winter. In time, true to that psychic distortion which makes us homesick for those places in which we were foreign, he will come to miss London bitterly. For the moment, however, his homesickness is rather more conventional: an acute state of corporeal diaggregation, a maladjustment of the body ill at ease among sofas, carpets, cornices, porticoes, vestibules, flower-beds, pavements, morning suits, bread, porridge and potatoes. Mostly bread, porridge and potatoes. For, to put it plainly, he is distraught about food, its lack and its unrecognisability. No stranger to meat eating and its guilty pleasures, his sojourn has only been authorised by the elders of his community under condition of a vow to abjure the triple temptations of liquor, meat and sex, and so to suffer a staple diet of, 'oatmeal porridge...bread, butter...meat and potatoes ad libitum' (Ghandi, 1976, Vol. 1, 79).

2. Recently, though, the Anglo-Indian landlady of his new West Kensington digs, and author celebre of many plates of porridge, has mentioned the curious mushrooming of vegetarian restaurants in the city; one of which he finds today: the Central at 16 Saint Bride Street, the sight of which, as he writes later, 'filled me with the same joy that a child feels on getting a thing after its own heart' (Ghandi, 1976, 41). He notices for sale under a glass window near the door a copy of Henry Salt's Plea For Vegetarianism. Buying the book for one shilling he walks into the dining room where, choosing the six-penny dinner for three courses, he sits down with his book and begins to read, greedily. (1976, 49) Some time in the next three years the author, Henry Salt, will meet this young man at a vegetarian convention who, in an unreliable version of this encounter, will say with the obstinate sing-song of Kathiawar in his vowels, 'My name is Gandhi. You have, of course, never heard of it' (Winsten, 1951, 118). In a more authentic testimony Salt claims to 'remember the now famous Mr Gandhi, who co-operated with us much more willingly than he has since done with the Indian government'. (Hendrick, 1997, 111-112).

3. In his compelling and histrionic autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi rates his encounter with Salt's ouevre as a life-changing experience. And, indeed, over the remaining three odd years of his legal studies in London, Gandhi's involvement with fin de siecle vegetarianism increased exponentially. He devoured, as he puts it, 'all books available on vegetarianism' (An Autobiography, 41), supplementing his urgent private dietetic studies with organisational and evangelical activism against kreophagy, or, meat eating. It is with this early phase of Gandhi's 'formation' that this paper concerns itself; seeking in his enmeshment with late-Victorian radicalism raw materials for the transnational or non-indigenous sources of his anti-imperial polemic. For, I will argue, the culture of fin de siecle animal welfare (of which vegetarianism was but one subsidiary) exerted profound influence on Gandhi's politics and ethico-ideological lexicon; giving substance to his critique of imperialism; shaping the complex etymology of Gandhian ahimsa.

4. From his earliest writings on the subject, Gandhi is quick to recognise the zoophilia of his English companions as a variety of xenophilia: that openness to outsiders, aliens, strangers, foreigners, ratified in the enduring Epicurean challenge to the Aristotelian circumscription of community; consolidated in its transmission as an flight from self-identical, self-confirming sociality. But what then of the aetiology of risk integral to this project? The structural demand that, in this case, Indian-loving be accompanied by a readiness for self-estrangement? A willingness, à la E. M. Forster, to 'run counter to the claims of the State' for the sake of an ally or friend? (Forster, 1951, 66) It is worth referring here to a public letter of April 24, 1894, circulated by Gandhi from Pretoria to Indians in England, and subsequently reprinted in The Vegetarian. Writing now in the more commanding prose borne of increased political agonism, Gandhi informs his Indian readers that collaboration with English vegetarians is a duty, on the grounds, among others, that, 'The vegetarian movement will aid India politically...inasmuch as the English vegetarians...readily sympathise with the Indian aspirations (that is my personal experience)' (Ghandi, 1976, 125). Here we have it in rudimentary form: secreted within the culture of English vegetarianism a variety of hospitality whose logical fulfilment may at any time 'constitute a felony contra patriam (Constantinou, 1998, 156), defying the imperial state in order to honour the 'aspirations' of dispossessed (and hungry) Indian visitors. These sympathies are clearly confirmed, from the other side, in a letter from Salt to the Mahatma in 1931, affirming his sympathies with the anti-colonial movement in India while reiterating the view that imperialism was one of the many perverse manifestations of kreophagy: '...I feel as strongly as ever that food-reform, like Socialism, has an essential part to play in the liberation of man-kind. I cannot see how there be any real and full recognition of Kinship, as long as men continue either to cheat , or to eat , their fellow-beings! (Salt, 1932) How, then, we might begin by asking, did Henry Salt et al manifest—if at all—their dietetic and affective anti-colonialism to the callow Indian youth in their midst? Three points bear elaboration.

5. Briefly, and firstly, Gandhi would have immediately observed in the culture of fin de siecle zoophilia a radical cosmopolitanism valorising and promoting difference against the cultural monochrome of Empire. Conveyed in various registers, this modality was frequently exemplified in the then unusual form of culinary cosmopolitanism. So, in an 1898 interview to The Vegetarian, the redoubtable Annie Beasant extols 'Dal and rice' as her favourite cuisine. And, to similar effect, a food review from 1887 of a new vegetarian eating house at Charing Cross lavishes praise upon the ecumenical board which includes, 'Macaroni and Indian sauce', the enticingly named, 'Home-Rule Potatoes', and 'Japanese bean-curd' (The Vegetarian Messenger, 1887, 3-4). Second, in this milieu of gastronomic experimentation Gandhi would also have encountered associated and powerful propaganda against the physiognomic basis of imperial argument—viz., that equation of vegetarianism with colonial enfeeblement—to which, as we know from his autobiography, he was unusually susceptible. So, for example, testifying vehemently in favour of the strength giving properties of vegetarian diet, many contemporary publications feature a telling notice for 'Briggs Muscle-forming Indian Food', endorsed by a picture of a ferocious be-turbaned Indian with alarming pectoral development. Substituting, in these ways, the series, beef/Europe/imperial strength with the contrasting if hopelessly contingent series, vegetarianism/native races/anti-colonial vigour, contemporary vegetarians also deployed a far more interesting ideological tactic wherein the discourse equating beef with imperial virility was hoisted upon its own petard, such that colonialism was re-diagnosed precisely as the lamentable affliction of kreophagous virility, and one whose repudiation demanded, in its turn, a radical reformation of masculinity itself. As Salt opines in his Killing for Sport: 'Under the fostering wing of Imperialism, brute force is developed more and more into a political science...The Englishman, both as soldier and colonist, is a typical sportsman; he seizes on his prey wherever he finds it with the hunter's privilege. He is lost in amazement when men speak of the rights of inferior races, just as the Englishman at home is lost in amazement when we speak of the rights of the lower orders. Here, as yonder, he is kindly, blatant, good-humoured, aggressive, selfish, and fundamentally savage ' (Salt, 1919, 150).

6. And thus, we may surmise, fin de siecle animal welfare demonstrates its discursive claim upon that association of unharmfulness and anticolonialism, compassion and anti-imperialism, fundamental to the elementary grammar of Gandhian ahimsa . But, in Gandhi's characteristically idiosyncratic idiom, this trope, meaning 'non-violence', of course, is also (and bafflingly) elaborated as a rhetoric of revolutionary obstinacy, a refusal of government, a character signifying the courage of contradiction. Itemised, variously, in his oeuvre as 'passive resistance', 'boycott', 'non-cooperation', 'civil-disobedience', it is invoked again toward the end of his eventful life as a synonym for 'anarchy': bearing the promise of his last, unfulfilled dream of India as an ungoverned society. What possible connection can there be between this eccentric rendition of ahimsa and the more straightforward embargo on human violence toward the 'lower animals' that we find in the inchoate thoughts of the early Gandhi? It is, and third, my contention that Gandhian ahimsa obtains at least some of its semantic density from late-Victorian zoophilia's self-postulation precisely as a resistance to governmentality; poised on the estimate that if modern power was a pathological form of non-relationality, achieving its most pernicious dimension in the sequestering logic of imperialism, then its refutation had to proceed from the rehearsal of unmediated or immediate and extreme forms of relationality between beings with 'vastly different phenomenologies and ontologies': viz., across genders, races, classes and, paradigmatically, across the species barrier. We have testimony to this zigzag association between fin de siecle animal welfare's 'creed of kinship', on the one hand, and its allergy to governmentality, on the other, in a letter of 1888 from Oscar Wilde to Violet Fane: '...vegetarianism...is very curious...[in] its connection with modern socialism, atheism, nihilism, anarchy...It is strange that the most violent republicans I know are all vegetarians: brussel sprouts seem to make people bloodthirsty, and those who live on lentils and artichokes are always calling for the gore of the aristocracy and for the severed head of kings ...   in the political sphere a diet of green beans seems dangerous' (Mason, 1991). If typically flippant in its seriousness, Wilde's assessment points to an unacknowledged strain in contemporary animal welfare, crucial, I submit, to the affectivity and anticonstitutionalism of Gandhian ahimsa and, congruently, to his anti-imperialism. It is to the elaboration of this strain as explanatory context for the seemingly ragged genealogy of ahimsa that I will direct my attention in the arguments to follow.

Utilitarianism, Animal Rights and Colonialism

7. To argue the case for the socialist-anarchist anti-colonialism of Gandhi's friends, then, we need to examine the peculiar political/ideological pressures that shaped their emergence at the fringes of late-Victorian culture. Significant, in this regard, is the way in which they defined themselves against an earlier and dominant tradition of animal welfare well in place by the beginning of the nineteenth-century. The years 1800, 1802, 1809 and 1810 each witnessed efforts to introduce into the English Parliament legislation for the prevention of cruelty to animals. These efforts finally bore fruit in 1822 when a historic bill, introduced by Sir Richard Martin, member for Galway, into the Commons, succeeded in extending protection to 'Horses, Mares, Geldings, Mules, Donkeys, Cows, Heifers, Bull Calves, Oxen, Sheep, and other Livestock'. These stirrings of Parliamentary reform to improve the condition of animals in the early decades of the nineteenth-century also inspired efforts to create an effective vigilante organisation committed to animal protection and to the promotion of legislation toward this end. And in 1824 the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A), was launched, with the project of bringing about in the sphere of 'morals' the changes that Martin had introduced within the law.

8. Few early reformers directly called themselves 'utilitarian', but the Victorian milieu of organised and official benevolence to which they laid claim was, to borrow some words from F. R. Leavis, 'in a general sense utilitarian' (Leavis, 1950, 13). Indeed, so comprehensively did utilitarian philosophy capture in its inception the ethical foundations of animal welfare that even today philosophers of contemporary animal liberation like Peter Singer continue to insist that utilitarianism alone enables that appeal to the equal consideration of interests that gives the animal world any chance for justice in the face of anthropocentric dominion. It is not incidental, in this regard, that the first serious mention of rights for animals comes directly from the pen of Jeremy Bentham as footnote to a larger discussion about ethics, occurring toward the end of his monumental An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. As he writes: 'The day may come when the rest of animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny ... The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognised, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate ... the question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?' (Bentham, 1996, 282-283)

9. While many early animal reformers claimed direct inspiration from and acquaintance with Jeremy Bentham not everyone was as impressed by the indiscriminate democratisation apparently endorsed by the utilitarian discourse of rights. The self-fashioned 'platonist', Thomas Taylor, for one, wrote an impassioned critique of the political costs likely to attend the profligate expenditure of privileges upon inferior beings. 'We may therefore', he protests in his 1792 tract, A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes, 'reasonably hope, that this amazing rage for liberty will continually increase; that mankind will shortly abolish all government as an intolerable yoke; and that they will as universally join in vindicating the rights of brutes, as in asserting the prerogatives of man' (Taylor, 1960, vii). But, I submit, in Taylor's critique we are in face of a supreme misunderstanding. For, in Benthamite hands, far from conspiring to an overthrowing of government, the language of rights is principally if not exclusively concerned with a vertiginous amplification of government activity. And, if available to reading as a subsidiary history of nineteenth-century benevolence, the story of utilitarian inspired animal rights also contains in microcosm the secret history of modern governmentality. This is the crux on which the ensuing discussion turns, and to understand it better we must return once more to Bentham's famous and influential defence of animal rights. Here, in the text framing his footnote, we find, in the main, arguments for increasing both the scope and scale of the law: that summum bonum of utilitarian theology. What, then, is the burden of Bentham's argument?

10. The question of our relation to other humans and to other animals, he opines, is properly speaking the subject of private ethics (Bentham, 1996, 282). But the maximisation of maximum happiness requires the policing of individual desires in such a way that morals, to quote Halevy on Bentham, 'assume a commanding governmental nature' (Halevy, 1928, 27). From the perspective of utility, Bentham insists, 'private ethics and the art of legislation go hand in hand. The end they have or ought to have is of the same nature' (Bentham, 1996, 285). However, if ethics and legislation, so defined, are of the same epistemic family what is there to prevent their active collaboration such that 'legislation', might become 'a special branch of morals'? (Halevy, 1928, 27) Nothing, is the answer, since for Bentham the ethical subject is intrinsically the consenting object of legislation, and conscience, concomitantly, is that critical rupture in the fabric of the otherwise integral self through which the law can enter, without breaking, to work with and upon the innermost recesses of the empathetic individual. It is this process, whereby utilitarianism transforms the 'man of feeling' into the ideal citizen, that Foucault has in mind in his famous exculpation of Bentham as the genius behind 'what might be called in general the disciplinary society' (Foucault, 1987, 209). Where once, Foucault famously argues, the offending individual experienced power as a singular force exerted ritually, violently, as constraint, from the outside, the utilitarian intervention achieved the opposite: reducing the costs of government and capitalising on the unmanageable increase of human population through an inspired dispersal of power within 'the cumulative multiplicity of man' (1987, 221). We will return to Foucault later in this discussion to understand better the precise techniques by which utilitarian governmentality is held in place so as to identify correctly the principles upon which its undoing might proceed. For the moment, however, I simply wish to argue that the distinctly utilitarian inspiration for early animal welfare—in Parliament and through the activities of the RSPCA—makes itself visible in and as a sustaining will to governmentality; and one authorised to enforce the habits of conscientious obedience upon all those with underdeveloped or untutored ethical natures, e.g. women, children, the working poor, the inferior races.

11. Most historians of early animal reform agree that closer examination of that project reveals, first, a constitutive class-bias and, second, a relentless subjection of the working classes to increased scrutiny from the law; subtly widening the sphere of their amerciable transgressions such that the task of policing the poor gradually overwhelms the commitment ostensibly to protect animals (see Thomas, 1983, 186-188 and Ritvo, 1987, 133-136). These features are picked up and canvassed in arguments against animal protection as early as 1800 by William Windham, parliamentarian and Burkean champion of 'old' English ways. In response to William Pultney's proposed bill, in that year, to prevent bull baiting, Windham contends that the sentiments of animal welfare are doubly tainted: by a deplorable prejudice against the sports of the poor while maintaining a myopic disregard for the equally blood-thirsty sports of the rich, and by a mean spirit of legislative intrusiveness. 'This petty, meddling, legislative spirit', he maintains, 'cannot be productive of good: it serves only to multiply the laws, which are already too numerous, and to furnish mankind with additional means of vexing and harassing one another' (Debates, vol. xxxv, 204) .

12. And, indeed, true to Windham's predictions, early animal welfare substantially increased the intrusion of the law into the lives of the poor in a bid to render them capable of self-regulative obedience. Notably, it is precisely in praise of this increased government interference that John Stuart Mill underwrites, in his 1848 Principles of Political Economy, the achievements of early animal welfare. In his words: 'The reasons for legal intervention in favour of children, apply no less strongly in the case of these unfortunate slaves and victims of the most brutal part of mankind, the lower animals. It is by the grossest misunderstanding of the principles of liberty, that the infliction of exemplary punishment on ruffianism practised towards these defenceless creatures has been treated as a meddling by government with things beyond its province; an interference with domestic life. The domestic life of domestic tyrants is one of the things which it is most imperative on the law to interfere with ...' (Mill, 1965, 958-959).

13. Claimed as a means to justify the regulation of the working classes, indirectly, through the rhetoric of animal welfare, Mill's defence of government interference also points the way, directly, to the colonial imperatives of utilitarian philosophy. For, his advocacy of untrammelled legal intervention is framed by utilitarianism's abiding 'romance' with the law, and one articulated within the defining paradigms of what Asa Briggs has so appositely defined as an 'age of improvement' (Briggs, 1959, 2). In this milieu, preoccupied with enumerating indices for progress, utilitarianism offered yet another benchmark; taking the view that nothing marked the distinction between savagery and civilisation more acutely than the difference (and distance) between natural or non-governmental society, on the one hand, and political or governmental society, on the other. And receiving this gift of government from within a discourse of 'improvement', political men, we might add, were also entitled if not obliged to spread the gospel of governmentality in and as a civilising mission. So it is that Mill rewrites colonialism as the attempt forcibly to civilise or governmentalise the East. In the case of 'those backward states of society in which the race itself may be concerned as in its nonage', he infamously observes, 'the early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable' (Mill, 1962, 135-136).

14. The younger Mill's justification of colonialism as the principled rectification of   inadequately governmental societies directly echoes similar arguments proffered by his father, James Mill, an administrator for the executive government of the East India Company, in his infamous The History of British India. We might also, en passant, acknowledge here Eric Stokes convincing demonstration, in the company of a few other scholars, of the intimate philosophical contribution of utilitarianism to the formulation of colonial government in India. What bearing then, to gather this discussion into the larger themes of our argument, does this utilitarian compact with colonialism have upon the history of fin de siecle animal welfare? To reiterate: it is our—somewhat abbreviated—claim here that through a series of accidents the history of late-nineteenth century animal welfare gets caught up in the utilitarian project of producing a disciplinary society; one whose force is felt at home, by the indigenous working classes, and abroad, by the colonised races. This enmeshment of animal welfare and governmentality or disciplinarity is, I propose, challenged in two ways by the fin de siecle dissidents whom Gandhi meets in London between 1888 and 1891. The first, and easier to apprehend, consists in their efforts to detach the project of animal welfare from the surrounding utilitarian agenda by making it perversely and directly co-extensive with the liberation both of the domestic working classes and of the foreign colonised races; namely, by rendering animal welfare into an associated form of socialism and anti-colonialism. Second, in a less obvious but possibly more profound manoeuvre, fin de siecle animal liberationists undo the symbolic logic of class and race oppressive (or colonial) governmentality by recasting human-animal relations as an enlightened model of anarchic, disobedient, cooperative and paradigmatically non-governmental sociality, which Gandhi, in time to come, would call ahimsa . Both these procedures are inextricable and interdependent, and their story will be told as such over the next two sections.

Undoing Governmentality: Cyborgs and Socialists

16. To proceed with my proposed reading of fin de siecle animal welfare we need briefly to recall Foucault's now canonical analysis of the precise techniques of utilitarian disciplinarity, most palpably manifest, as he claims, in the model of Bentham's Panopiticon or ideal prison. This model, Foucault asserts, is of course designed principally to keep inmates in a condition of constant, exposed visibility (subjected to 'eternal vigilance') such that, in time, the perpetual, impassive and impersonal gaze from the central watchtower translates itself into the guilty and unforgiving eye of self-regulatory conscience. But the law of visibility enshrined in the structure of the Panopticon also relies heavily upon, and complements, its harsh architecture of separation. The technique of 'disciplinary partitioning' constructed through the isolating cell walls renders each individual singularly visible to the supervisor and insodoing simultaneously 'prevent[s] him from coming into contact with his companions' (Foucault, 1987, 199-200). What, then, is the logic of panoptical separation? How is the project of power qua disciplinarity served, its catechisms of obedience rehearsed, through these concrete cell-dividers controlling the relations of men?

17. Within the Benthamite model, Foucault explains, it is understood that the inmate can only interiorise the disciplinary eye of power comprehensively if he is compelled into a state of extreme, pathological individuation: quarantined from the horizontal conjunction of collectivities; from their affective distractions and tendency to foment (in collaboration, through conversation) the logic of counter-discourse, countermanding the singularity of any law. This inextricability of disciplinarity and the logic of separation, made physically manifest in the Panopticon, recurs at a discursive level throughout Bentham's writings. The work of the early Bentham, especially, conveys the clear conviction that unmediated relationality, the horizontal arrangement of the 'face to face' relation, or what he calls 'conversation', is constitutively antithetical to the vertical axis of power along which are arranged the motions of obedience, the disciplinary rotations of governmentality. Formulating this schema in terms of the distinction between 'natural' and 'political' society in his A Fragment on Government, Bentham notes the following: 'When a number of persons...are supposed to be in the habit of paying obedience to a person, or an assemblage of persons...such persons altogether...are said to be in a state of political society...[but] When a number of persons are supposed to be in the habit of conversing with each other, at the same time that they are not in any such habit as mentioned above, they are said to be in a state of natural society' (Bentham, Fragment, 40). That is to say, the condition of horizontal, direct or immediate relationality, that is, relationality sans obedience, equals a state of pre-political, non-governmental and anarchic sociality. So too, governmentality becomes, in effect, shorthand for the improved culture of mediated relationality: the superintending third term in a pyramidal structure continually interrupting the even groundwork of dialogic communication, compelling conversants to address each other, henceforth, only through the intercessory language of law. In other words, the privileges of govermentality require the sacrifice of direct conversational pleasure. Vice versa , the unmediated 'face to face' relation must eschew (or undo) the civilising conveniences of disciplinarity.

18. It is relevant to our argument that Bentham's allergy to immediate relationality is accompanied by a corresponding nausea for untrammelled 'feeling', 'sentiment', 'emotion'; the glue, that is, of affective affiliation. 'Among principles adverse to utility', he writes in An Introduction , 'that which at this day seems to have the most influence ... is what may be called the principle of sympathy' (Bentham, 1996, 21). Elsewhere in the text he condemns the 'caprice' of sympathy or sentiment as intolerably 'anarchical' (16). So too, as is well known, J. S. Mill testifies in his Autobiography to utilitarianism's informing suspicion of feeling. In his words, 'the cultivation of feeling (except the feelings   of public and private duty) was not much in esteem among us, and had very little place in the thoughts of most of us, myself in particular ... we did not expect the regeneration of mankind from any direct action on...sentiments' (Mill, 1971, 67).

19. If addressed, in the main, to the problematic of human sociality, utilitarianism's credo on behalf of separation and against the claims of sentiment also spread by contagion, showing its symptoms, in the period under review, within all available circuits of interaction: between human and divine orders and, so too, between human and animal worlds. Accordingly, most spokesman of early animal reform render feeling or excessive sympathy between the species at best irrelevant and at worst detrimental to the cause of animal liberation. They are, likewise, determined that an equal consideration of animal interests does not, in any circumstances, imply an equivalence between human and animal interests (Singer, 1975, x). Typically, Bentham is assiduously unsentimental in his defence of animal rights and insistent upon the hierarchy and unbridgeable gap separating human and animal sensibility, always privileging the capacities and claims of the former over those of the latter: 'If the being eaten were all, there is very good reason why we should be suffered to eat such of them as we like to eat: we are the better for it and they are never the worse...If the being killed were all, there is very good reason why we should be suffered to kill such as molest us; we should be worse for their living, and they are never the worse for being dead' (Bentham, 1996, 282).

20. This insuperable barrier between benevolence and affinity, legislation and affect, takes an interesting turn in John Kipling's 1891 study, Beast and Man in India. Citing as examples of Indian pre-political anarchy both the cruelty of Indians to their animals and the unpalatable consubstantiality of Indian animals and humans, Kipling's book catalogues, variously, the grotesque admixture of human and animal in Hindu iconography, the unwholesome proximity of mahouts with their elephants, the bizarre bed-sharing of tigers and their tamers (Kipling, 1891). But, of course, it is precisely this mode of affective consubstantiality that fin de siecle animal welfare invokes; as a means of transforming the very heart of human cruelty, but, also, as a symbolic means of dismantling the overriding principles of disciplinary partitioning. Donna Haraway is apposite here. In terms strikingly close to the concerns of our discussion, she poses throughout her corpus the struggle of colonial and anti-colonial energies as a contestation between two types of identity: the one accruing from a culture of self-contained, self-reflexive, humanism, the other, conversely, from the permeable boundaries and mixed spaces of a 'cyborg economy' or 'primate order'. Colonialism, she maintains, expresses a cloistered subjectivity: 'individuation, separation, the birth of the self, the tragedy of autonomy...alienation, that is, war tempered by imaginary respite in the bosom of the other'. And anti-colonialism, in contrast, may well find its radical feet upon the uneven territory of self-dissolving coalition, affinity, relationality; namely, in the anarchic, 'interdigitations of human, machine, non-human, animal or alien, and their mutants in relation to the intimacies of bodily exchange and mental communication' (Haraway, ?, 177, 378). Our historical subjects, arguably, anticipate Haraway's cyborg economy, entering into symbolic conflict with utilitarian governmentality in two ways: first, through a defiant discourse of zoophilia or love for animals, and, second, through the argument that the practice of such inter-species love itself paves the way to an enlightened affective socialism susceptible, in its turn, and with some help from Charles Darwin, to the themes of anarchist anticolonialism.

21. In the main, the ideological fissures in nineteenth-century animal welfare, with which we are concerned here, first manifest themselves in the antipathy of fin de siecle radicals toward the anthropocentric condescension that they see at work in the efforts of early reformers, specifically, their assiduous policing of the boundaries of humanity. Eschewing the condescending language of utilitarian benevolence, zoophilic radicals opt instead for the credo of 'sentiment', drawing, ad nauseam, upon Schopenhauer's On the Basis of Morality for arguments in favour of the annexation of feeling or compassion as 'the sole source of disinterested action and the only moral incentive'; as also for the philosopher's ratification of feeling as a salve for 'the barbarism of the West' (Bullock, 1903, 4, 2, 5).

22. If more or less unanimous in the affective thrust of their radicalism, most representatives of the group under consideration are, nonetheless, at pains to variegate the many applications of 'love', and the means for its cultivation. Henry Salt, for instance, discloses an affective askesis in the art of poetry, finding in its renunciation of epistemic certainties (in favour of the inchoate language of the heart) techniques for dissolving the disciplinary partitions that mar human rationality. Much like Salt, the anti-vivisectionist Francis Power Cobbe also places poets at the vanguard of the sentimental revolution, honouring them, especially, as beacons for animal welfare in her curious anthology of animal verse, The Friend of Man; and his Friends—the Poets. Celebrating those poets capable of conjuring the irreducible particularity of animal-human sociability, Cobbe defends affect, in her turn, as the ability to register the conjunctural singularity of all relationship. Posing her arguments against the maximising and universalising protocols of utilitarian ethics, which she describes as the 'coldest of philosophies', she defends zoophilia as an aggressively minoritising perspective: ineluctably partisan, defiantly immediate (Cobbe, 18972, 6). Where, she argues, the undiscriminating eye of benevolence or philanthropy makes no distinction between one dog and another, treating all as grist to the mill (or, indeed, Bentham) of utility, the committed zoophile is incapable of 'polydoggery'; that 'thing against which all feeling revolts' (Cobbe, 1990, ?). Relentlessly particularising the animals of her acquaintance in False Beasts and True, Cobbe lovingly details the unique criminality of one as against the signatory intensity of another; elsewhere valorising the 'divine law of love' as a force against the utilitarian calculus of pleasure and pain. animals'. (Cobbe, 1895)

23. If eccentric to say the least in her passionate zoophilia, Cobbe's intensities are entirely overshadowed by those of her fellow anti-vivisectionist rival and ally, the occultist Anna Kingsford. What appears in the prose of others as protestations on behalf of 'sympathy' or 'feeling' becomes in Kingsford's practice a form of acute psychic excess, elaborating itself in visionary dreams of agonising self-identification with tortured animals. A strong advocate of the theory of spontaneous hydrophobia, Kingsford often defends the view that dogs become rabid in reactive fear of vivisection and human persecution (see Kingsford, 1886, 11). Thus, commending dog-love as a natural vaccine against rabies, Kingsford's career also chronicles an incremental and corresponding mistrust of the human race which finds expression, once again, in her vivid dream life through anarchic fantasies of violence against leading vivisectionists: 'Yesterday' she records, 'November 11, at 11 at night, I knew that my will had smitten another vivisector! ... for months I have been compassing the death of Paul Bert, and have but just succeeded ... I have killed Paul Bert as I killed Claude Bernard; as I will kill Louis Pasteur, and after him the whole tribe of vivisectors' (Maitland, 1913, 268).

24. To summarise, then, the trope of 'love' in fin de siecle animal welfare symbolically resists the credo of separation and the embargo on 'sentiment', underscoring utilitarian governmentality. Additionally, it prepares the route to contemporary utopian socialism through an internal logic wherein 'love' becomes a synonym for ascetic 'sacrifice' and the simplification of life, or dissolution, in other words, of the disparity between rich and poor, the owing and the labouring classes. 'Love is sacrifice', thunders Henry Light in his Common-Sense Vegetarianism , 'the perfected article finally breaks the bonds that would restrict its exercise to but one person, one family, one country, one race, or even one person. Love is noble, not selfish' (Light, ?, 96). It is the imperatives of   zoophilia as sacrifice or affective self-denial that inform condemnations of the sports and fashions of the rich as variously 'indulgent', 'luxurious', 'greedy' and 'superfluous'. And where once cruelty to animals bespoke the brutality and profligacy of the labouring poor, it now becomes a signifier, quite simply, of conspicuous consumption; that indelible trail of blood in the milliner's workshop, the glover's boutique, the aristocrat's hunting fields, the coloniser's touristic pursuit of exotic big-game. Such condemnations of recreational class-indulgence are matched by the contiguous discourse of vegetarianism which takes as its target the culinary excesses of kreophagy. In this vast literature, perhaps the most coherent and influential case for vegetarianism as the key to the simplification of life comes from the puritanical Count Leo Tolstoy. His The First Step condemns meat-eating on two counts: first, as self-indulgent gluttony, that condition where 'killing ... is called forth only by greediness and the desire for tasty food'; and second as the cause of an industry that relies, for the satisfaction of a few palates, upon the exploitation and dehumanisation of a whole underclass of slaughterers, butchers, drovers, cooks.

25. Thus paving the way for socialist class-critique, the discourse of zoophilia also gains immeasurably from the claims of Darwinian evolutionism. Darwin's hypotheses, especially his insistence upon the inter-connectedness of sentient life, enables the fin de siecle politics of love, that we have been canvassing, to transform itself into a cosmopolitan 'creed of kinship'. This credo, as I will suggest, briefly, in the next concluding section, is instrumental in translating the ethics of human-animal sociality, once again by degrees, into a subtle form of anarchist anticolonialism.\

Charles Darwin and Anti-Colonial Anarchism

26. On 27 December 1831 Charles Darwin sailed out aboard the Beagle on a voyage he would describe in time to come as 'by far the most important event in my life and ... whole career' (Darwin, 1989, 2). This opportunity, we might note in passing, was entirely framed by colonial imperatives. The Beagle's cartographic investigations along the South American coast were intended to furnish the Admiralty with information to assist in future military and commercial operations, as also to   'enable Britain to establish a stronger foothold in these areas, so recently released from their commitment to trade only with Spain and Portugal'. Ever susceptible to such designs and aspirations, Darwin's own commitment to British expansionism is revealed in a glowing encomium to Empire recorded toward the end of the Journal of Researches devoted to his amateur naturalist and anthropological musings. 'It is impossible', he writes, 'for an Englishman to behold these distant colonies, without a high pride and satisfaction. To hoist the British flag, seems to draw with it as a certain consequence, wealth, prosperity, civilisation...' (Darwin, 1989, 9).

27. In large part, Darwin's patriotic fervour and singular failure of sympathy with the 'native' races he encounters is fashioned by the distinctly utilitarian view that lacking recognisable forms of governmentality, mediation, obedience they also lack civilisation, progress, improvement. As he observes of the tribes in Tierra Del Fuego: 'The perfect equality among the individuals composing these tribes, must for a long time retard their civilisation. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilised always have the most artificial governments ...' (Darwin, 1989, 183-184). Yet, and inadvertently, the evolutionary train of thought to which he succumbs during the voyage of the Beagle comes eventually to contravene the principles of governmentality—certainly as they have been identified in the preceding discussion.

28. Darwin's accidental and indirect countermand to governmentality is, arguably, provoked by a little bird, specifically, the American ostrich or 'Rhea', replaced in southern parts of the continent by a different but closely allied species. The peculiar geographical distribution of the Rhea sets Darwin firmly on the course of contemporary evolutionary speculation, particularly in its challenge to earlier naturalist assumptions about the immutability of species. As is well known, from the beginning of the nineteenth-century most evolutionary thinkers were agreed that far from being fixed within bounded taxonomic categories species became mutable through principles of lineal descent, changing constitution in the slow transition from extinct to extant forms. To this advance in nineteenth-century evolutionism Darwin acknowledges his debt in The Origin of Species. But Darwin's Origin, of course, poses an even more radical challenge to earlier theorists of species' immutability. Dispensing with the current notion of separate lineages, wherein mutation only occurs vertically in a linear series linking one species in the dead past to one in the living present, Darwin proffers two modifications. First, he claims, species also branch horizontally in time such that any given species might leave a variety of seemingly disparate descendants all intimately related to each other through shared ancestors. Second, dramatically extending the former observation, he asserts the single origin of all extant species. It is this notion of a shared community of descent which fuels Darwin's contention that, therefore, all sentient life is knitted together in an 'inextricable web of affinities' (Darwin, 1989, 578). As he writes, with rising excitement, in a notebook entry of 1837: 'If we choose to let conjecture run wild, then animals, our fellow brethren in pain, diseases, death, suffering and famine—our slaves in the most laborious works, our companions in our amusements—they may partake [of ] our origins in one common ancestor—we may be all netted together' (cited in Sheehan and Sosna, 1991, ?).

29. It is not hard to imagine why Darwin's hypotheses would be of revolutionary significance to late-Victorian advocates of unmediated human-animal relationality. In particular, and with reference to our larger discussion, his postulation of sentient life as an inextricable web is eagerly absorbed within fin de siecle animal welfare as a theorem for radical cosmopolitanism; authorising intimacy with apparent strangers and facilitating, for our purposes, the anti-colonial hospitality of which Mohan Gandhi becomes a direct beneficiary. Thus, refusing to concede propinquity or 'similarity' as a prerequisite for community, Salt's The Creed of Kinship invokes Darwin to transform zoophilia , with its claims on behalf of inter-species relationality, into a rehearsal ground for xenophilia , with its unpartisan favour toward foreign guest-friends. Condemning imperial patriotism and nationalism, in these terms, he canvasses the subtle pleasures of imaginative identification with strangers and outsiders: 'in a happier age than any the world has seen it will be possible, and indeed necessary, that each individual, while not less conscious than now of the claims of neighbourhood, shall also be moved by a wider regard for the well-being of others—of those who are at present looked upon as "outsiders"—and by a determination that they shall not be sacrificed to any interests or supposed interests of his own' (Salt, 1935, 8).

30. Salt's sentiments are ubiquitous in the literature of fin de siecle animal welfare and no writer of note fails to see in Darwinian evolutionism a means of recasting the political as a demand for the claims of strangeness over propinquity, alterity over similarity, or, as Howard Moore puts it in his, The Universal Kinship , as a struggle between 'altruistic 'and 'provincial' ethics (Moore, 1906). And in each case, Darwin is invoked to confer a new status upon animal welfare, corroborating the view that human-animal sociality holds the key, à la Haraway, to a more generally egalitarian world, liberated from inequities of class, gender, race etc. But if Darwin's metaphor of a 'web of affinities' finds tacit political expression in these ways, it is his attending theory of ecological cooperation that achieves, once again despite his intentions, direct revolutionary articulation.

31. If nature, represented variously in Origin as a branched 'tree' or 'coral', confirms the kinship of sentient life, it also, Darwin argues, demonstrates in the apparently harsh economy of its selective procedures the necessity of co-operative co-adaptation between successful species, augmenting the subtle relation of life forms with a demand for their interactive sociality. Changes in one organism directly produce contingent effects in all other organisms with which it interacts in the prevailing ecosystem, thus creating complex genetic material wherein, say, the evolving structure of woodpeckers, will depend, in large part, on successful relations established between previous generations of woodpecker and coeval tree, bird and insect forms.

32. In due course, Darwin's view of nature as 'a tangled bank' demonstrating the complex interdependence of palpably different organisms, falls into the hands of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, settled in England from 1886, and a close ally of the Salt circle. (Haraway, in The Companion Species Manifesto , 9, draws attention to the anarchism, or mistrust of sequestering categories, implicit in the web of affinities postulated by Darwin: 'And like the productions of a decadent gardener who can't keep good distinctions between natures and cultures straight, the shape of my kin networks looks more like a trellis or an esplanade than a tree. You can't tell up from down, and everything seems to go sidewise. Such snake-like, sidewinding traffic is one of my themes. My garden is full of snakes, full of trellises, full of indirection. Instructed by evolutionary population biologists and bioanthropologists, I know that multidirectional gene flow—multidirectional flows of bodies and values—is and has always been the name of the game of life on earth. It is certainly the way into the kennel'.) Reformulating anarchism as the law of immediate and co-operative sociality or 'mutual aid', Kropotkin gains from Darwin a case for the irrefutable amity at work in the animal world. As he observes, apropos of evolutionary thought, in his Mutual Aid , 'we maintain that under any circumstances sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life. Those species which willingly or unwillingly abandon it are doomed to decay; while those animals which know best how to combine, have the greatest chances of survival ...' (Kropotkin, 1910, 57). Such animal sociability, however, is entirely 'natural', in Bentham's sense of the term, flourishing without the intrusive mediations of governmentality and the law. Indeed, Kropotkin avers, the jealous State with its vertical organisation has historically resisted the horizontal circuits of voluntary association; ever curtailing the affective intensities between people. 'In proportion as the obligations towards the State grew in numbers', he observes, 'the citizens were evidently relieved from their obligations towards each other' (226-227).

33. Kropotkin is not by any means the only conduit for anarchism into late-Victorian England (Oliver, 1983). But his intervention at this scene is crucial for the concerns of the present discussion, explicating, through a specifically Darwinian model of human-animal sociality, the terms of conflict and contestation between the discourse of immediate love/relationality/affect, extolled by fin de siecle animal welfare, on the one hand, and that on behalf of separation and against the claims of feeling underpinning the grim protocols of Benthamite or utilitarian governmentality, on the other. A crucial node in the complex historical processes which gave to fin de siecle animal welfare a distinctly anarchist provenance, Kropotkin's ideas are amplified and echoed throughout the literature associated with this movement. Leo Tolstoy's influential writings on vegetarianism are typically shaped by a profound mistrust of ruling institutions; Elisee Reclus, friend of Kroptkin, early theorist of 'mutual aid', and author, with Ernest Crossby, of The Meat Fetish, consistently combines vegetarian apologia with a demand for the end of all government; and Edward Carpenter, the homosexual activist, vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist, seamlessly connects his own belief in a Darwinian creed of kinship with entreaties for non-governmental sociality (Carpenter, 1905, 104, 113).

34. So, to bring this discussion to a close: a complex ideological mixture of affective socialism and post-Darwinian evolutionary anarchism sustains the anti-colonial hospitality, à la Derrida, that fin de siecle animal welfare offers to Gandhi between 1888 and 1891. But what is visible in the first instance as hospitality becomes over time a form of ideological parity, wherein, much in the manner of his early interlocutors, Gandhi distils in the affective language of ahimsa the prose of anarchist refusal: demanding that the British Quit India and that independent India, in its turn, quit governmentality. Is this a case of influence? Most certainly. In very large part the business of my argument has been to claim that mature Gandhian politics owes at least part of its inheritance to the tentative murmurings of a few radicals on the margins of late-Victorian culture. But, equally, in a gesture—let's call it 'postcolonial'—that Salt would doubtless condone, it has also been my purpose to offer a Gandhian reading of fin de siecle animal welfare; to assert under the comprehensive sign of ahimsa the integrity and organicity of its various and seemingly disparate obsessions: zoophilia, anti-colonialism, affect, the simplification of life, class-critique, socialism, cosmopolitanism, kinship and anarchism. Let us end, then, in honour of anticolonial collaboration, with a somewhat clumsy poem that Salt wrote about Gandhi toward the end of his own life. It is called, 'India in 1930':

An India governed, under alien law,
By royal proclamation,
By force, by pomp of arms, that fain would awe
Her newly-awakened nation;
While he who sways the heart of Hindustan,
To more than Kingship risen,
Is one old, powerless, unresisting man,
Whose palace is—a prison!

 

Leela Gandhi is a Senior Lecturer in the English Program in the School of Arts, Communication and Critical Inquiry at La Trobe University. She is co-author of England in Twentieth Century Fiction: Through Colonial Eyes (with Ann Blake and Sue Thomas, 2001) and author of Measures of Home and Other Poems (2000) and Postcolonialism: A Critical Introduction (1998).

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© borderlands ejournal 2005

 

 

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