Law's Underdog: A Call for Nonhuman Legalities

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Questions pertaining to the role of nonhumans in law shed light on some of the most fundamental assumptions and constructions of contemporary modern law. I start by reviewing the traditions of animal welfare and animal rights in legal studies and by discussing the constitutional frameworks that contend with the animal. Then, I move beyond the individual-based discourse of much existing animal law to contemplate ecological traditions that consider nonhuman populations and species as well as land ethics and ecosystem management. Next, I review the rich literature that has emerged in the last two decades in critical theory, mainly posthumanism and its subtraditions of animal geographies and multispecies ethnography. Finally, I sketch visions of more-than-human legalities that push beyond the limitations of existing (neo)liberal legal traditions, pausing to consider what ocean, or blue, legalities might look like. Throughout, I argue that we need to move toward a dynamic and pluralistic approach that acknowledges the myriad ways of being in the world, their significance to law, and, in turn, law's significance to these other modes of existence.

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Annual Review of Law and Social Science

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