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Pet grief: when is nonhuman life grievable?
Örebro universitet, Institutionen för humaniora, utbildnings- och samhällsvetenskap. (HumAnimal Group)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-1191
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study explores how pet owners grieve their pets and view their pets’ transience. Drawing on Butler’s notion of the differential allocation of grievability, I have analyzed eighteen interviews with pet owners. Butler argues that grievability is made possible by a normative framework which allows for some human or human-like lives to be grieved, while other lives are rendered ‘lose-able’. All the interviewed pet owners say that they are capable of grieving a nonhuman animal, but analysis suggests that they make their pets grievable and ungrievable by turns. I argue that by maintaining this ambivalence, the interviewees negotiate pets’ inclusion in a human society while simultaneously defending human exceptionalism. The article concludes with a discussion of pet grief as a potentially destabilizing emotion. I suggest that grieving beings on the border between grievable human and lose-able animal—‘werewolves’ according to Giorgio Agamben—may be a powerful way of challenging normative frameworks which arbitrarily render some human and nonhuman lives lose-able.

Keyword [en]
animal studies, Giorgio Agamben, bereavement, Judith Butler, companion animals, grief, human-animal relations, loss, mourning, pets
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-261595OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-261595DiVA: diva2:850674
Available from: 2013-10-29 Created: 2015-09-02 Last updated: 2015-09-02

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