More-than-Human Legalities: Advocating an

More-than-Human Legalities: Advocating an "Animal Turn" in Law and Society



Published as Chapter 20 in The Handbook of Law and Society, Austin Sarat & Patricia Ewick, eds.

What is the role of nonhumans, and of nonhuman animals in particular, in the constitution of law? How should legal systems account for societies that include not only humans but also nonhuman entities? What are the intersections between law and nonhuman life? And how to overcome the anthropocentric biases in modern legal systems? Such questions and others may provide fertile grounds for law and society investigations. Despite the richness and complexity of these investigations, however, the law and society community has typically relegated the “question of the animal” to the discourse of animal rights. Within this discourse, legal rights are extended to certain nonhuman animals through the same liberal framework that has afforded humans’ rights beforehand: vertebrates, invertebrates, microbes, and non-living entities must first cross Western law’s threshold of personhood to obtain rights. This chapter suggests, alternatively, that sociolegal scholarship could greatly benefit from moving beyond the rights discourse of animal law to a new subject of inquiry: more-than-human legalities. By acknowledging the myriad ways of being in the world, their inherent interconnections, and their manifestations in and constitutions of law, more-than-human legalities extend the advocacy-oriented scholarship of animal rights to highlight how both animality and humanness are deeply embedded in the construction of law and, reciprocally, how law is acutely relevant for constituting the animal. Indeed, while nonhumans render law’s operations – in fact, its very existence as such – possible, law also constitutes animal life and renders it meaningful in a variety of ways.

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law and society, animal studies, posthumanism, more-than-human legalities


Criminology | Law | Law and Society


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More-than-Human Legalities: Advocating an