Parallel Lives

Humans are fixated by the categorization of other species, as well as their own. The hierarchies we have defined underpin the way in which Western society is ordered and its members are treated. The entanglement of human and non-human life gives rise to a complex paradox between domination, dependency and desire. This is particularly prevalent among zoos, farms and museums – whereby the human gaze defines the role and worth of the animals. In these contexts the same systems of power which lead to marginalization among human institutions are present. As such, this thesis explores intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989): the interwoven nature of oppression including sexism, racism, classism and speciesism (Singer, 1975). By viewing the lives of humans and non-human animals as parallel, it seeks to avoid dichotomisation, exclusions and othering, and instead accepts our commonalities. As such, the projection of human values/institutions onto animals through their collective nouns is used as a framework: ‘a school of fish,’ ‘a business of ferrets’ and ‘a parliament of owls.’ By considering these not just as names but as societal roles, a subversion of anthropocentric institutions can be imagined. Traversing topics from interspecies learning, to working with animals as well as non-human political actors, this work calls for a radical rethink of the hierarchies and social organisation of our inseparable existences and allows for the elevating (rather than the exploitation) of other species.

2019, Layout of the Master Thesis PARALLEL LIVES by Eva Jack, Master Social Design, Design Academy Eindhoven