Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Killing (off) of Animals in Some Southern African Fiction, or "Why Does Every Animal Story Have to Be Sad?" *

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Killing (off) of Animals in Some Southern African Fiction, or "Why Does Every Animal Story Have to Be Sad?" *

Article excerpt


The paper begins with cameos of my personal experience of killing animals and a discussion of the media debate in January 2007 about the ritual slaughtering of a "ceremonial bull" by Tony Yengeni. It then investigates representations of nonhuman animal deaths in some recent southern African fiction in relation to the thinking of Jacques Derrida, Martha Nussbaum, J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, as well as Buddhist ethics and utilitarianism. All the fictional animals are sacrificed to human ideas of "the animal" even though some of the deaths could be classified as euthanasia: the dogs in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace [1999]2000; Sharisha, the whale, in Zakes Mda's The Whale Caller (2005); Piet, the baboon, in Justin Cartwright's White Lightning (2002); and Mangy-Dog in Luis Bernardo Honwana's short story "We Killed Mangy-Dog" ([1969]1977).

Ethics relating to animal deaths recur in these fictions: the animals' putative awareness of impending death, the denial of embodied dignity in contrast to the possibilities of human violence and sadism. The animals killed also lose the potential for a flourishing life, even if their suffering has been brought to a close. Some of the writers deploy the sympathetic imagination in their representations of the particular condemned subjects, so that the reader may enter the experience of the othered animal; all portray how the animals are situated, tragically, within a carnophallogocentric order which rarely acknowledges their subjectivities or individualises their deaths.


Die referaat begin met kamees van my persoonlike ervaring van die doodmaak van diere en 'n bespreking van die mediadebat in Januarie 2007 oor die rituele slagting van 'n "seremoniele bul" deur Tony Yengeni. Vervolgens word voorstellings van niemenslike dieresterftes in 'n paar voorbeelde van onlangse Suider-Afrikaanse fiksie ondersoek in die lig van die denke van Jacques Derrida, Martha Nussbaum, J.M. Coetzee se Elizabeth Costello, en ook Boeddhistiese etiek en utilitarisme. Al die fiktiewe diere word geoffer ter wilie van menslike opvattings van "die dier", selfs al kan sommige van die sterftes as "genadedood" geklassifiseer word: die honde in J.M. Coetzee se Disgrace [1999]2000; Sharisha die walvis in Zakes Mda se The Whale Caller (2005); Piet die bobbejaan in Justin Cartwright se White Lightning (2002); en Mangy-Dog in Luis Bernardo Honwana se kortverhaal "We Killed Mangy-Dog" ([1969]1977). Etiek wat verband hou met dieresterftes kom herhaaldelik in hierdie fiksiewerke voor: die diere se veronderstelde bewustheid van die naderende dood, die ontsegging van beliggaamde waardigheid in teestelling met die moontlikhede van menslike geweld en sadisme. Die diere wat doodgemaak word boet ook die potensiaal van 'n florerende lewe in, selfs al is hulle lyding beeindig. Sommige van die skrywers wend die simpatieke verbeelding aan in hulle voorstellings van die besondere veroordeelde subjekte, sodat die leser die ervaring van die veranderde dier kan meemaak; hulle beeld almal uit hoe die diere (tragies) gesitueer is binne 'n karno-fallogosentriese orde wat beswaarlik erkenning verleen aan hulle subjektiwiteite of hulle sterftes individualiseer.


Cleo, our fourteen-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever, has become gradually more geriatric and is now incontinent. The vet tells me there is no choice. When he and his helper arrive they seem surprised at my emotional greeting. Cleo is in her own environment in her sun patch at the front door, as my daughter sits at her head and I stroke her back. She shivers slightly at the sight of the vet, and when the lethal injection enters her bloodstream her head crashes onto the verandah tiles. The vet's helper puts her on a stretcher and they whisk her body off before it is cold.

George will not cope with another winter. He has been kept barely mobile with drugs and now the chestnut thoroughbred who was turned into a racing machine too young and then ridden too hard by previous owners is losing condition and in constant pain. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.