This blog is written in poor English, because this is all I can do. Yet, I think it is not just about being unable to do any better. It is even important to publish in poor English. At the time of the ancient Greeks, people like us were called barbarians. They spoke poor Greek, whereas the barbarians of today speak poor English. So shall we keep quiet, because we don’t know how to speak English accurately? The choice not to speak English altogether is no choice as it shuts us out from the bigger part of the world. And wait, aren’t there more barbarians in this world than Englishmen (and Englishwomen)? Thus I think it is high time to make a point of barbarian English. It is a question of courage and of encouraging each other speaking barbarian English.
What does all this have to do with animal-studies?
Not to speak English or to speak it incorrectly, means first of all not to participate in the international communication. But I suspect that something else is at stake in this exclusion. Maybe the case of the ancient Greeks can tell us more about it. Not to speak Greek or to speak it incorrectly was easily taken for not having reason altogether. Thus it meant to be stupid.
Language was considered to be the indicator of reason, mind, intelligence or rationality (which one of these terms was used depends on the source and the period of reference). Not only to the ancient Greeks, by the way. Many later philosophers followed this conception and even in current zoology animals are trained human language in order to judge their intelligence. This connection found expression in the word logos, which determines both language and reason.
Now, the attribute ‚reason’ serves among others to distinguish human beings from animals. In the common perception animals don’t have any reason. In the French language this connection is very apparent: être bête means to be stupid, and être une bête means to be an animal.
Thus the fact not to speak Greek (and the question is to which extent this is still valid for English?) lead in several steps to an animalisation of those who were called barbarians: The barbarian didn’t speak Greek, he didn’t have language (logos), he didn’t have logos (reason) therefore he was like an animal. Today, we would probably not call people who don’t speak English biests, but the doubt of somebody’s intelligence is soon at hand. We only have to ask immigrants to tell us their experience with the local police, when they cannot answer in the local idiom.
Barbarian notes, now, propose a reformulation of philosophy as animal-studies. But animal-studies shall not only focus on animals, Barbarian notes rather introduce a new point of view on the world by looking at it …
… from the margins.
… from the perspective of the other.
… from within the world.
… integrating/questioning what is supposedly irrational.
It is an attempt to deconstruct hierarchies wherever they appear. Making the barbarian speak is trying to articulate what is supposedly inarticulate.