Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

126 posts categorized "Social Sciences"

08 March 2024

Finding Women's Studies on the shelves: an international turn

Transnational feminist

'Transnational feminist politics, education and social justice', edited by Silvia Edling and Sheila Macrine. Shelfmark YC.2023.a.64.   Books published by Bloomsbury are received in print and continue to be available to readers.

 

The cyber-attack on the British Library and the resulting IT outage have thrown a spotlight on the Library’s collections held in physical formats such as print and manuscripts.  Whilst the Library is working to restore access to digital collections and to material stored in Yorkshire at Boston Spa, the physical collections held in London are still available to readers.   Written on International Women’s Day, this post takes a look at the books on the shelves in the Library's basements at St Pancras. Focusing on books on Women's Studies, it considers the (temporary) effect of bringing a hybrid library back to a primary reliance on print.

 

Edith

'Edith Cavell: faith before the firing squad', by Catherine Butcher (shelfmark YC.2016.a.12850) gazes out from the centre of a row of books received through Legal Deposit. Works centering women are spread through the collections.  This book comes from Lion Hudson (Monarch Books) who publish Christian material, in print format. 

 

The Library restored access to a temporary version of its online catalogue on 15 January.  That catalogue, based on a back-up version, includes material received by the Library up to April 2023.    The catalogue marks material held in physical form in London as ‘should be available’, whilst e-books, e-journals and e-resources that cannot be accessed, and print materials held at Boston Spa, are marked as ‘unavailable’.  Some materials available online can still be accessed too.

 

What does this mean in practice for anyone looking for contemporary published books in social science subject areas?

 

The answer, in short, is that whilst most older social science books are still available, a sizeable proportion of more recent publications from the UK and Ireland cannot currently be accessed. 

 

After non-print legal deposit regulations came into force in 2013, most of the UK’s major publishers of academic texts switched to depositing their publications in digital format.  This includes very many of the big-hitters in the social sciences.  For books, think Routledge, Ashgate, Gower, Sage, Policy Press (Bristol University), Palgrave Macmillan, Rowman & Littlefield, and smaller independent publishers such as Intellect Books, Verso, Pluto, IB Tauris, Saqi and Zed Press.  Those depositing e-books rather than print also include several university presses, among them UCL, Manchester, Liverpool, Wales, Huddersfield and two of the major US university presses, Yale and Chicago.  For journals the list is similar but also includes Taylor & Francis and Oxford University Press.  These are major publishers of social science materials.

 

For these publishers, the Library holds books and journals in print format to at least 2013 and sometimes beyond, as not all publishers switched to digital deposit at the same time.  All had completed their transition by 2018, so any books and journals received since then will have been received in digital format and are not currently available.  The Library is working to restore access to these materials.

 

Academic publishers who continue to deposit their books in print include Cambridge University Press and Bloomsbury (the latter deposits print and digital copies), as well as Oxford University Press (books, but not journals),  along with very many international university presses who deposit because they distribute their books in the UK and Ireland. A wide range of smaller UK and Irish publishers also deposit print copies, but their output in the social sciences is much smaller than the academic presses who deposit books and journals in digital format.

 

Women's rights in armed conflict

 

'Women’s rights in armed conflict under international law', by Catherine O’Rourke.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2020.  British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a 1908.   Books published by Cambridge University Press are received in print and should be available.

 

Legal deposit regulations cover the UK and Ireland. The Library purchases a wide range of academic material and other books relevant to readers’ needs published outside the UK and Ireland.  Purchased books in English and in European languages are received in print format and are held in London at St Pancras.  The vast majority of these books should be available to readers, but readers planning to consult items should contact the Reference Services team by emailing  [email protected]  in advance of their visit to ensure that specific items are available.

 

 purchased women's studies

A screenshot of a catalogue search showing recent books acquired by purchase as mostly still available to readers.

 

Assessing the resources that are currently available for social science research, there has been less impact for books published before 2013.  After that date, the switch to digital deposit means that a substantial proportion of books published in the UK and Ireland are not currently available.  Books published outside the UK and Ireland, in Europe, the Americas and Oceania, are less impacted by the IT outage.  Most more recent books published in Africa and Asia are not available as most are stored at the Library’s Boston Spa site: there is  information about alternative resources on the Asian and African Studies blog. Additional materials, especially reference books and recent issues of some journals, can be found in the Library's reading rooms, including the Social Science reading room and the Asian and African Studies reading room. 

 

Gender and elections

'Gender and elections', by Susan Carroll, Richard Fox and Kelly Dittmar.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1355.

 

The Library is still able to provide readers with access to a very wide range of important academic texts across all subject areas within the social sciences.  In the absence of a large part of UK and Irish publishing, the more recent books available have a slightly more international frame of reference.

 

Arab American women

Etel Adnan's artwork graces the cover of the monumental 'Arab American women; representation and refusal', edited by Michael W Suleiman, Suad Joseph and Louise Cainkar.  Syracuse University Press.  Shelfmark YC.2022.b.1696

 

 

Womanist

Knowledge and inspiration combine in 'Womanist and mujerista psychologies: voices of fire, acts of courage', edited by Thema Bryant-Davis and Lillian Comas-Díaz. Washington, D.C. : American Psychological Association, 2016.  Shelfmark YC.2016.b.1854

 

 

A brief walk along the shelves in the Library’s basements reveals a rich range of books relevant to women’s studies and women’s history.  Whilst they are generally spread fairly thinly across the shelves, they wait to be discovered and called up to the light of the reading rooms.

 

 

Two

The relatively rare sight of two books in a row with a focus on women and gender.  Both the ethnographic study 'Sex, shame and violence: a revolutionary practice of  public storytelling in poor communities' by Kathleen Cash  (YC.2016.b.1866) and 'Nurses as leaders: evolutionary visions of leadership' by William Rosa  (YC.2016.b.1867) are US publications (published by Vanderbilt University Press and Springer,  New York respectively)  showing the international coverage of currently-available, more recent, material in the social sciences.

 

Recently published books in the humanities and social science sit side by side on the shelves in the basements, whilst works of fiction, general interest, and children's books are housed at Boston Spa.   Interestingly, current drama is housed in London, illustrated in the image below showing three plays, 'Mum' by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, August Strindberg's 'Miss Julie' adapted by Amy Ng and Lulu Raczka's 'Antigone'.   In the centre of this shelf, partly hidden by its label, is Chiara Bottici's 'Anarchafeminism', published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2022.

 

YC2022s

Social science and humanities books received from UK, Irish and some international publishers by Legal Deposit, and stored at St Pancras.

 

Anarchafeminism

'Anarchafeminism' by Chiara Bottici (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2022).  Shelfmark YC.2022.a.8306 is among books available to readers.

 

Chiara Bottici is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, USA, and has written extensively on philosophy and myth.  Judith Butler, who will be speaking at the British Library on 19 March 2024 (in person tickets are sold out, but online tickets are available), reviewed this latest work by Bottici, saying  "This is a capacious, clear, and revolutionary text that will bring readers who are just starting to learn about feminist philosophy as well as those who have been around a long time. This book does an excellent job in communicating the value of the anarchic, especially in its resistance to the leader, and its thoroughgoing affirmation of the value of freedom. This freedom is not a narrow idea of personal liberty, but an entire mode of transforming the world. We learn as well about a 'transindividualism' which allows us a way to rethink global solidarity for our times."   (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/anarchafeminism-9781350095854/ viewed 8/3/2024).

 

 

01 March 2024

'Women are up to something': selected readings for Women's History Month 2024

With International Women's Day approaching on 8th March, this post ushers in Women’s History Month by picking out a selection of books published over the last few years that put women’s history and women’s voices centre stage. Ranging from quick reads to more weighty academic studies, this small selection gives an insight into the diversity of the material that is available to readers in the Library’s St Pancras reading rooms.  

Access to the collections held by the British Library remains limited because of a major technology outage caused by a cyber attack at the end of October 2023.  The work being done to restore services is detailed in a post on our Knowledge Matters blog, and our temporary website outlines the services that are currently available, as well as listing what's on at the Library.  Our reading rooms at both St Pancras and Boston Spa are open for personal study, with free wifi and limited access to the collections.  Those who held a reading pass before the outage are able to consult a limited range of collection items.    

The selection of books below ranges from literary criticism to histories of political activism, and from interviews to theory: all are held at St Pancras and should be available to readers who have a readers pass, but if you are planning to come to the Library, please check the availability before you visit.  To do so, contact our Reference Services team by emailing [email protected] .

 

Uncontrollable women: radicals, reformers and revolutionaries by Nan Sloane

London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1245

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 16.13.37

Cover image of Uncontrollable women: radicals, reformers and revolutionaries, by Nan Sloane. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1245

Nan Sloane’s most recent book explores the history of radical, reformist and revolutionary women between the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832. The book puts the often-untold stories and voices of these women centre stage to show the way they challenged power structures and even gave their lives for the cause they made their own.   The battles they fought for political expression and greater freedom are relevant not only to a different reading of history, but also to women's rights today.  Nan Sloane’s earlier work, The Women in the Room: Labour’s forgotten history (London, IB Tauris, 2020, British Library shelfmark YC.2021.a.4484) offered a readable and enlightening account of the political activists who shaped the British Labour party.

 

Carnival is woman: feminism and performance in Caribbean mas, edited by Frances Henry and Dwaine Plaza.

Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2020 British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.488

Caribbean mas

Cover image of Carnival is woman : feminism and performance in Caribbean mas, edited by Frances Henry and Dwaine Plaza. Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2020 British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.488

 

The essays in this collection bring a feminist perspective to the role of women in Caribbean Carnival, through a focus on women and their practices in the Trinidad Carnival. The book presents a range of qualitative research methods, including interviews, participant observation and ethnography to examine women’s empowerment through performance, enjoyment and expression. 

 

Feminism by Bernardine Evaristo

London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd., 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.590.

Evaristo Feminism

Cover image of Feminism, by Bernardine Evaristo, London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd., 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.590.

The ‘Look Again’ series of short books explores the Tate’s National Collection of British Art, reframing the collection in new ways and drawing on contemporary perspectives.  In just under 50 pages, this richly-illustrated book offers an interpretation of British art from an intersectional feminist perspective, from one of Britain’s foremost writers.  Bernadine Evaristo is a Booker Prize-winning author and Professor of Creative Writing whose work ranges from fiction and poetry to criticism.  This personal exploration focuses on representations of women and non-binary people of colour who have been less visible within museums and galleries.

 

The career and communities of Zaynab Fawwaz: feminist thinking in fin-de-siècle Egypt by Marilyn Booth.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.366

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 13.45.45

Cover image of The career and communities of Zaynab Fawwaz : feminist thinking in fin-de-siècle Egypt by Marilyn Booth. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.366

 

Academic and literary translator Marilyn Booth has worked for over thirty years to show women’s input into debates around feminism and gender politics in Egypt.  Her latest work focuses on Lebanese author and activist, Zaynab Fawwaz who wrote and published in Egypt toward the end of the nineteenth century. Her monumental work The Book of Scattered Pearls Regarding Categories of Women /   الدر المنثور في طبقات ربات الخدور  which was first published in 1891, is a biographical dictionary that celebrates and supports women's achievements.  Zaynab Fawwaz wrote two novels and a play, and was at the forefront of the emergence of the novel in Arabic.

 

The women are up to something: how Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch revolutionized ethics, by Benjamin J. B. Lipscomb.


New York: Oxford University Press, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.411

 

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 14.01.07

Cover image of The women are up to something: how Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch revolutionized ethics, by Benjamin J. B. Lipscomb .
New York : Oxford University Press, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.411

 

This book focuses on four women who began their studies at Oxford just before the Second World War: Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch.  From very different backgrounds, they forged friendships and worked to set out an intellectual understanding of what it means to live a good life. Drawing on letters, archives and interviews, the book explores their ideas and the contribution to intellectual history made by their distinct, alternative, interventions into philosophy and ethics.

Up to something

Inside page with figures from The Women are up to something... : Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot and Mary Midgley.

 

Surfacing: on being Black and feminist in South Africa, edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba  Baderoon. 

Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a.3898

Surfacing

Cover of Surfacing : on being Black and feminist in South Africa, edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba  Baderoon.  Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a.3898

 

This ground-breaking collection of essays, edited by feminist theorist Desiree Lewis and poet and scholar Gabeba Baderoon is dedicated to bringing to the fore a range of contemporary Black South African feminist perspectives. The writers and practitioners who have contributed their views use creative expression, photography and poetry to explore representations of Blackness, sexuality, girlhood, history, divinity, alongside other themes.

Surfacing blurb

 

 

Challenging women's agency and activism in early modernity, edited by Merry E. Wiesner.

Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021, British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1071

 

Agency and activism

Cover of Challenging women's agency and activism in early modernity, edited by Merry E. Wiesner. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021, British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1071

An Open Access edition of this book is also available free online as at OAPEN Online Library of Open Access Books https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/61368

This collection of essays, focusing on Europe and beyond, considers the various ways women were able to exercise agency in the Renaissance and early modern period. At this time women faced new constraints but also found new forms of activism. The essays look at how the actions of girls and women could shape their lives and challenge male-dominated institutions in spite of family and social pressures. 

 

Feminisms with Chinese characteristics, edited by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao.

Syracuse, New York : Syracuse University Press  2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.908

 

Feminisms  Chinese

Front cover of Feminisms with Chinese characteristics, edited by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao.  Syracuse, New York : Syracuse University Press  2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.908

Edited by two academics from US universities, this collection of ten essays and two interviews examines the varying ways Chinese feminist ideas have developed since the mid-1990s. It includes articles by contemporary activists and writers from China to highlight the importance of exploring different interpretations of feminism in a way that is integrated into Chinese culture and history.

 

 

Shakespeare's 'lady editors': a new history of the Shakespearean text, by Molly G. Yarn

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1605

 

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 13.37.46

Cover image of Shakespeare's 'lady editors': a new history of the Shakespearean text, by Molly G. Yarn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1605

In the tradition of challenging established histories and revealing the work of women who have been left out of history, this book sets out to recover the lives and work of almost seventy women editors. It challenges the received wisdom those who edited Shakespeare’s texts were almost all men up until the late twentieth century. Its alternative perspective takes these women's work seriously in order to change our understanding of how Shakespeare’s works were edited and how we read Shakespeare across time.

 

Family, slavery and love in the early American republic: the essays of Jan Ellen Lewis. Edited by Barry Bienstock, Annette Gordon-Reed, and Peter Onuf.

Williamsburg, Virginia : The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture ; Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.455

 

Family and slavery

Title page of Family, slavery and love in the early American republic: the essays of Jan Ellen Lewis. YC.2023.a.455

 

Historian Jan Ellen Lewis, who died in 2018,  taught at Rutgers University-Newark for over four decades.  Her studies of gender, emotions, and the family transformed understandings of the early American republic.  She was a renowned scholar of colonial and early national history, focusing on the intersections between gender, race and politics.  She was also known for championing the career progress of students and colleagues.   This collection, brought together by her husband Barry Bienstock, along with colleagues Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, contains thirteen of her most important essays, along with critical interpretation and contextual discussion by fellow historians.

 

The ten books picked out here - just a few of the diverse approaches to women's history -  also have in common the fact that they were received by the Library under Legal Deposit. This is the requirement that publishers should deposit a copy of each book published or distributed in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland with the British Library, and it remains a key means through which the Library builds its collections.  Just over half of the books received each year under Legal Deposit come into the Library in print, whilst slightly less than half are received in electronic format.  Our contemporary printed collections are also built through purchase and donation.  The Library is still able to receive Legal Deposit copies in print format.  Electronic deposit is yet to be restored but has been identified as a priority. 

 

 

 

31 July 2023

Historical census publications of Africa, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands: 'Unlocking our Hidden Collections'

 

The British Library acquires material at a rapid rate, and this has resulted in areas where material cannot be catalogued promptly soon after its arrival. This prevents discovery and access by readers, effectively ‘hiding’ the material away. In response to this, the Unlocking our Hidden Collections initiative aims to clear cataloguing backlogs, process donated material, and upgrade already existing bibliographic records, making the material 'visible' once more.

 

Swaziland 1956 1

Front cover of the Swaziland census 1956. Credits: Swaziland census 1956 shelfmark C.S.D.475/1.

There are several collections being worked on under this umbrella including  Archives by Women Musicians, the Tony Benn Archive: Correspondence and personal papers, Cotton charters and rolls, and the Harley Manuscripts (post 1600).

The Government and Official Information group at the British Library also has a collection joining this exciting line up, the Historical Census Publications of Africa, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands; which is comprised of 18th and 19th century publications and was donated by the Office for National Statistics in the late 1990s. Up to now the material has not been fully accessioned and catalogued.

With the commencement of the Hidden Collections project, these items are being sorted and catalogued, so that readers will now be able to access this intriguing material via the Library's main catalogue Explore the British Library.  The main focus is to process items from Africa, the West Indies, and the Pacific Islands.  

But this work will also reveal and allow us to catalogue material from other areas, because when the material was first accepted it was listed and stored in boxes containing a mix of items, for example the Gold Coast with Canada, or Malawi with Ireland, resulting in a mix of locales. Many of these areas went through periods of upheaval and change during the 18th and 19th centuries  – from world wars and other conflicts, to the end of colonial rule and establishing independence as separate nations.


The first item to be catalogued from these donated publications as part of the Hidden Collections Programme was the Swaziland census of 1956, which was one of the last censuses carried out in the country before it regained independence in 1968.

Swaziland 1956 2

Introductory paragraph of the Swaziland census 1956. Credits: Swaziland census 1956 shelfmark C.S.D.475/1.

During this time Swaziland was governed by a resident Commissioner who worked with the white settlers, the Swazi ruler, and the British High Commissioner to South Africa. Following Swaziland’s involvement in the Second World War, and some unpopular decrees made by the Commissioners, in 1952 the Swazi paramount chief was given a degree of autonomy that had been unheard of in the indirect British rule in Africa.

While the census document itself may look unassuming, inside it is filled with tables that give an insight into the lives of people living in Swaziland in 1956 as the country was being prepared for independence. For example, there are tables that measure the population growth of Swaziland against other regions, before going on to list the demographics of age, sex, residence, occupation, and it also contains comparative tables of the African population compared to the Euro-African population.

As the project has continued it has become evident that this census material is a true mix of cultures, spanning the globe from New Zealand to Lesotho, to Malta to Jamaica, to Argentina to Canada, and everywhere in between.


The mix of material has thrown up different challenges to be met along the way. One of the first encountered was how to approach censuses that had been bound together, whether to catalogue the item as a whole or to treat each census as an individual item.

Gold coast

Spine of an item with three census years listed, culminating in four different documents in need of cataloguing. The 1921 census can also be found at C.S.C.378/4., and the 1931 census at C.S.C.378. Credits: Gold Coast 1911, 1921, 1931 shelfmark OPE.2023.x.59.

Other headscratchers have been about what the correct approach should be for censuses published as a Parliamentary Sessional Paper, or in a Gazette, or in a supplement to that Gazette, or published in a supplement to a bulletin for the census of a completely different country. There are a lot of different ways to publish a census, and not just as a simple monograph.

However, there have been some fantastic finds within the material donated by the Office for National Statistics. Highlights have included additional volumes from the Mauritius 1983 census (CSD.384/63) and the Commonwealth Caribbean 1970 census (CSF.157/60) which have been added to our existing holdings. A census new to our collections was that for Nigeria in 1963. This census was the last taken before the civil war of 1967-70, and the 1973 census was cancelled amid controversy and accusations of inaccuracies in the counting.


There has also been the first census of Malta taken in 1842, which unlike most we have received was conducted not by a Statistics or Census Office, but instead by the Chief Inspector of Police. Another item of note was a very interesting census for the Western Pacific Islands in 1911. While geographically expansive, it was incredibly short – with most of the islands having a single sentence census: “Island was empty at this time.”

Labuan 1881

The first page from the handwritten census of Labuan in 1881. Credits: [Report on the census of Labuan and its dependencies taken in 1881], shelfmark OPG.2023.x.8 (1)

 

Some of the best finds though have been the handwritten censuses, such as the Gambian census of 1901, or that of Norfolk Island in 1891. There was also the census of Labuan in 1881, a tiny island near the coast of Borneo that was uninhabited until it came into the hands of the British who constructed a port there, although how it came to be under British control is a matter of some debate. Some stories involve pirates, and others hostage taking and cannon fire. Later the censuses of this island became folded into that of North Borneo, and were published in the Official Gazette.

As the Hidden Collections Programme progresses, more of this material will become accessible.  Its eclectic mix of locales and publication methods serves to highlight the incredibly varied census publications already in the collection, as well as some great new additions.

 

Vikki Greenwood

Cataloguer, Hidden Collections Project

 

11 July 2023

Animals and social justice: readings on animals in literature

From 7 March – 9 July 2023 the British Library Treasures Gallery has had a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

 

To complement the exhibition guest Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world. The articles are based on his own reading and research and aim to highlight some of the books held at the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

 

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the Climate Emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight, Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes his final guest blog about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the importance of animal rights in social justice:

 

Janina Duszejko lives alone in rural Poland near the Czech border. She teaches in a local school in the nearby town. She loves nature, particularly the woods where she lives, and supplements her income by maintaining nearby cabins owned by part-time summer residents. A vegetarian and supporter of animal rights, she mourns the disappearance of her two beloved dogs. She perseveres with her studies in astrology and continues to translate with her friend Dizzy the English poet William Blake (1757 – 1827). Studying helps her to grieve. She believes it may reveal what happened to her dogs. Or, indeed, the local hunters dead in suspicious circumstances.

 

Duszejko is the protagonist in the novel Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead (Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018, shelfmark DRT ELD.DS.325469), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2018. The book was originally published in Tokarczuk’s native language, Polish, in 2009 called Prowadź Swój Pług Prez Kości Umarłych (Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych, Olga Tokarczuk, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009, shelfmark YF.2010.a.22348). Tokarczuk is recognised for her ‘narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.’

        

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead cover

Polish Drive your plow Cover

Front covers of the English version of Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead and original Polish version Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych by Olga Tokarczuk. Credit: English: Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018, shelfmark ELD.DS.325469 and Polish: Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych, Olga Tokarczuk, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009, shelfmark YF.2010.a.22348

 

Novels entertain with their narrative imaginations. They engage readers with an infinite variety of human experiences. But, considering this is a guest post for The British Library’s Social Science blog, what has Duszejko’s imagined life got to do with animals and social justice? 

 

I choose not to use, as may be expected, an acclaimed nonfiction book or a trusted textbook to explore animals and social justice. I pick a novel instead. Novels often explore themes of social justice. Think Dickens or Dostoevsky, Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. But what of fiction about animals and social justice? Perhaps few people would consider the plight of animals a social justice issue. But clearly both the prize-winning author, Tokarczuk, and her narrator Janina, do. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is in the tradition of novels engaging readers with the infinite variety of human-animal experiences. There is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (Black Beauty, Anna Sewell, London: Oxford University Press, 1931, shelfmark 012199.e.4/49). Hackenfeller's Ape by Brigid Brophy (Hackenfeller's Ape, Brigid Brophy, London: Secker & Warburg, 1964, shelfmark X.907/1310). The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary (The Roots of Heaven, Romain Gary, pseud. Romain Kassef, London: White Lion Publishers, 1973, shelfmark X.989/19402). A Tiger for Malgudi by R K Narayan (A tiger for Malgudi, R.K. Narayan, London: Heinemann, 1983, shelfmark Nov.48695). Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons by J M Coetzee (Elizabeth Costello: eight lessons, J.M. Coetzee, Leicester: W.F. Howes, 2004, shelfmark LT.2013.x.1797), which won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe, 2020, shelfmark ELD.DS.497335), winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature and Victorian Premier's Prize for Fiction in Australia in 2021.

 

Book spines close

Book spine covers of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Hackenfeller's Ape by Brigid Brophy, The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, A Tiger for Malgudi by R K Narayan, and Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons by J M Coetzee. Credit: Black Beauty, Anna Sewell, London: Oxford University Press, 1931, shelfmark 012199.e.4/49. Hackenfeller's Ape, Brigid Brophy, London: Secker & Warburg, 1964, shelfmark X.907/1310, The Roots of Heaven, Romain Gary, pseud. Romain Kassef, London: White Lion Publishers, 1973, shelfmark X.989/19402, A tiger for Malgudi,  R.K. Narayan, London: Heinemann, 1983, shelfmark Nov.48695, and Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons, J.M. Coetzee, Leicester: W.F. Howes, 2004, shelfmark LT.2013.x.1797.

 

As you can see, animals are not an alien species to questions of social justice. Justice is sought in these books as imagined in society, respectively for horses; an imagined nonhuman primate sent into space; African elephants; a wild-caught tiger performing in a circus ring; and animals generally. Sewell and Narayan imagine the lives of animals and their stories as told by a horse and a tiger. The others are from our human perspective. I am fascinated by how novels with animal protagonists provoke our imaginations and jump-start our minds. (But, what of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) you ask? I refuse to include it. It is not a book about them. It is about us.)

 

The Animals in That Country Cover

Front cover of The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay. Credit The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe, 2020, shelfmark ELD.DS.497335

 

In Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Tokarczuk writes a whodunit served with an order of animal ethics. Duszejko speculates that the deer in the woods and the foxes freed from a fur farm have killed the hunters in revenge. Duszejko describes how Dizzy finds a video they watch on the Internet:

A handsome Stag attacks a hunter. We see it standing on its hind legs, striking the Man with its front hooves. The hunter falls over, but the Animal doesn’t stop, it stamps on him in a fury, it doesn’t give him a chance to crawl away on his knees. (Tokarczuk, 2019, p.224)

 

‘The World Turned Upside Down’ is a folkloric tradition where songs and art reverse power roles from human to human and human to animal. Women serenade men and give them roses. Working-class men instruct upper-class men to do manual work. Horses sit in carriages drawn by men, and even animal to animal when sheep chase lions.

 

Would animals do to us what we do to them? Would they fight back? (As they do in Gene Stone and Jon Doyle’s The Awareness (The Awareness, Gene Stone, Jon Doyle, New York: The Stone Press, 2014), when all animals suddenly gain conscious awareness of human domination.) Do they resist? What if humans and animals and their place in society were reversed? Is this what is meant by animals and social justice?

 

The Awareness

Front cover of The Awareness by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle. Credit: The Awareness, Gene Stone, Jon Doyle, New York: The Stone Press, 2014

 

In this series of guest posts, I have explained why animals matter in the climate emergency. Industrial agriculture may have provided us with cheap food in a lifetime but we need to move away from chemical-dependent, intensive factory farming to reduce the impact of climate change. I described the spaghetti junction of patriarchy, sexism, racism, capitalism, speciesism, and how the intersection of oppressions maintains its power and control, preventing us from establishing a caring society for all. I argued the greatest challenge facing the animal rights movement is making the moral and legal status of animals a mainstream political issue. Going vegan and speaking out for animals are important steps for people to take. But optional lifestyle choices must be complemented with initiatives that seek institutional, political, and legal change for animals.

 

In short, animal rights is social justice. The animal rights movement is a social justice movement. Novelists know it. So do some advocates. Our work is to make this everyday common sense. Animals are part of society. They deserve social justice.

 

Not wanting to give away what happened to Duszejko’s dogs or reveal any other spoilers, I urge you to read Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

References

Brophy B. (1964) Hackenfeller's Ape, London: Secker & Warburg, shelfmark X.907/1310

 

Coetzee, J.M. (2004) Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons, Leicester: W.F. Howes, shelfmark LT.2013.x.1797

 

Gary R. (1973) The Roots of Heaven, London: White Lion Publishers, shelfmark X.989/19402.

 

Mckay, L. (2020) The Animals in That Country, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe, shelfmark ELD.DS.497335

 

Narayan, R.K. (1983) A Tiger for Malgudi, London: Heinemann, shelfmark Nov.48695

 

Orwell, G. (1949) Animal farm, London: Secker & Warburg, shelfmark YA.1989.a.17407

 

Sewell, A. (1931) Black Beauty, London: Oxford University Press, shelfmark 012199.e.4/49

 

Stone, G., Doyle J. (2014) The Awareness, New York: The Stone Press

 

Tokarczuk, O. (2009) Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, shelfmark YF.2010.a.22348

 

Tokarczuk, O. translated Lloyd-Jones, A. (2018) Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, shelfmark ELD.DS.325469

07 June 2023

Animals and the law: readings on animal rights law

From 7 March – 9 July 2023 the British Library Treasures Gallery has a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

 

To complement the exhibition, guest writer Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world. The articles are based on his own reading and research, and aim to highlight some of the books held at the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

 

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the Climate Emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the history of animal rights law:

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight, Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

Animals are considered as property only,’ said one of our parliamentarians in a House of Lords debate about cruelty to farmed animals. ‘[T]o destroy or abuse them, from malice to the proprietor, or with an intention injurious to his interest in them, is criminal; but the animals themselves are without protection; the law regards them not substantively; they have no rights!’ It is reasonable to assume this remark is from a recent debate, but you would be wrong. It was made by a former Lord Chancellor, Lord Erskine, in 1809. The occasion was the discussion of a bill he introduced to ‘prevent malicious and wanton cruelty to animals.’ That bill failed, but many laws on the treatment of animals have come onto the statute books since Lord Erskine spoke those still resonant words more than two hundred years ago.

 

Yet, do these laws protect animals? Or do they serve the needs of those who own them? Do laws stop people from cruelly treating and killing animals? Or do they give them a licence to use and abuse them? These questions are front and centre in the debate about animals and the law today.

 

Laws reflect society’s values. The established hierarchy of human superiority over animals ensures the interests of the former prevail at the latter’s expense. Every law throughout the world reflects human dominance over animals. The impact of laws relating to animals varies depending upon various factors, including the species addressed, the robustness of the enforcement, and exemptions excluding animals from the law’s protection.

 

ADDA defends the animals

‘ADDA: Defends the Animals’ magazine, Special Issue No.1, 1992, Add MS 89458/4/31. Credit: Association for the Defense of Animal Rights (ADDA)

 

Some laws outlaw particular animal abuse. For example, the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 banned raising animals for their fur in England and Wales in 2003. The European Union banned leg hold traps in 1991, sow stalls in 2001, and the marketing and testing of animals for cosmetics in 2013. But in the United States, the federal Animal Welfare Act regulating animals in research excludes the species most used (rats, mice, and birds), and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act exempts chickens, the species most killed for food. This patchwork approach results in anomalies. Why should cats living in our homes receive greater legal protections than those in research laboratories? The laws relating to cats should be the same everywhere. Penalties for transgressing laws protecting animals are not meaningful and need strengthening to reinforce their role as deterrents. In cases of human-on-human violence, including spousal and child abuse, the perpetrator often has a history of animal cruelty.

 

What will the next 200 years bring for animals and the law?

 

A fundamental shift in animal law is overdue. From a culture of laws licensing how humans can abuse animals, we need a new wave of legislation recognising animals as having moral and legal rights. The industries, institutions, and governments profiting from institutionalised, commercial exploitation of animals can no longer be the judge and jury over animals and the law.

 

The legal status of animals is as property, not as sentient beings with legal standing. But public opinion about animals is changing. Increasing numbers of protests against animal cruelty, louder calls for animal rights, and emerging consumer markets in all things vegan are exciting developments over the last few decades. A shift in public opinion and behaviour is underway. Further, the academic study of animal law is establishing itself as a credible, recognised field in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. For example, Harvard, Stanford, and New York Universities all have animal law programs. The longest standing, the Centre for Animal Law Studies, is at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, OR, and was established in 2008. Tier im Recht (TIR), the animal law non-profit organisation in Zurich, Switzerland, was founded in 1995. Switzerland is unique in that it is the only country whose constitution recognises the dignity of animals. ‘In animal law we ask fundamental questions about the nature of a legal right or interest,’ writes Vanessa Gerritsen, an attorney with TIR. ‘[H]ow laws create or entrench (power) imbalances, and – most importantly – how those imbalances impact animals.’

 

Journal of animal welfare law

Journal of Animal Welfare Law, Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare (ALAW), 2005, Add MS 89458/4/31. Credit: Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare (ALAW)

 

Such initiatives as the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) and the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law (CCARL) are breaking new ground. NhRP is the only civil rights organisation in the United States dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals. It brings lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees and elephants, to challenge the ‘archaic, unjust legal status quo that views and treats all non-human animals as “things” with no rights.’ CCARL is an ‘academic centre of competence dedicated to the study of fundamental rights for non-human animals.’ The centre’s co-founders, Sean C Butler and Raffael N Fasel, are authors of a new textbook, Animal Rights Law (Animal Rights Law, Raffael N. Fasel, Sean C. Butler, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2023, shelfmark DRT ELD.DS.750407) that I highly recommend. They write, ‘this textbook is about whether and how the law should adapt to accommodate and enable the changes we are seeing in public understanding and opinion, in litigation and law reform proposals, as well as in legal education.’

Animal rights law cover

Front cover of  Animal Rights Law by Raffael N. Fasel and Sean C. Butler. Credit: Animal Rights Law, Raffael N. Fasel, Sean C. Butler, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2023, shelfmark ELD.DS.750407

 

Lord Erskine spoke out again on behalf of animals in the Lords in a debate about another bill on farmed animal welfare that did become law. The Bill to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Cattle (aka Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act) became law in 1822. It is known as the Martin’s Act after its sponsor, the Irishman Richard Martin, the MP for Galway. It became the first animal welfare law passed by an elected government. The Culture & Animals Foundation celebrated its bicentenary by producing, ‘Martin’s Act at 200’, a six-part audio documentary. Martin was also present at a meeting of prominent humanitarians at Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in London that led to the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. The SPCA received its Royal patronage from Queen Victoria in 1840 and became the RSPCA.

 

Culture_and_animals_foundation

Pamphlet from The Culture & Animals Foundation, 1992, Add MS 89458/4/78. Credit: The Culture & Animals Foundation

 

Public opinion is moving ahead of the law, waiting for governments to catch up and pass legislation. Sometimes parliaments act before the people make up their minds. The greatest challenge facing the animal rights movement is making the moral and legal status of animals a mainstream political issue. Going vegan and speaking out for animals are important steps for people to take. However, optional lifestyle choices must be complemented with initiatives that seek institutional, political, and legal change for animals.

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

References

 

Butler, S., Fasel, R. (2023) Animal Rights Law, Oxford: Hart Publishing, shelfmark ELD.DS.750407

22 May 2023

Animals and feminism: readings on the intersection of oppression

From 7 March – 9 July 2023, the British Library Treasures Gallery has a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

To complement the exhibition, guest writer Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world.  The articles are based on his own reading and research and aim to highlight some of the books held by the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive, and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the Climate Emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the link between feminism and animal rights:

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight, Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

Becoming vegan in 1976 began a lifetime’s commitment to living with care, compassion, and a commitment to justice for all, regardless of species. My anger at the animal cruelty that I witnessed around me gave me the confidence to speak out. But, my lack of understanding meant my arguments were often ill-informed and undeveloped. I continue to learn how to express myself in ways that withstand challenges. One way I learn is by turning to books and the authors who write them. These people and the words they write figure prominently in my life. They continue to clarify my thoughts, unravel my feelings, and help me refresh what I put on my dinner plate. Philosophers, academics, artists, novelists, feminists, and even cookbook authors influence how I live and the compassionate world I seek to make.

 

Carol J. Adams is one of those figures who profoundly informs my understanding of social justice and my practice as a social justice advocate. Perhaps more than any other thinker and writer, she links feminism with veganism, uniting them in a progressive agenda regardless of how we see ourselves as separated by gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or species. As author and co-author, editor and co-editor, she has written an impressive library of books and articles (and talks) about feminism, ecofeminism, violence against women, veganism, and spirituality. She established her reputation in 1990 with her groundbreaking book, The Sexual Politics of Meat (The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Critical Theory, Carol J. Adams, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, shelfmark YKL.2017.a.1903). Its provocative title signals it is neither humorous nor about cooking but as its subtitle indicates a feminist-vegetarian critical theory.

20230426_124213
Front cover of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams. Credit: The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Critical Theory, Carol J. Adams, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, shelfmark YKL.2017.a.1903

 

Dominant forces build and maintain the intersection of oppressions, Carol explains. This is the spaghetti junction of patriarchy, sexism, racism, capitalism, speciesism, and more. The intersection of oppressions maintains its power and control, preventing us from establishing a caring society for all. Dominant forces rely upon their ability to encourage division and manufacture competition where neither needs not exist. ‘Dominance functions best in a culture of disconnections and fragmentation,’ Carol writes. ‘Feminism recognizes connections.’

 

Human dominance over animals is nothing but disconnections and fragmentation. Conditioning stops us from seeing a burger as the charred remains of dead animals. Animals are here what Adams refers to the ‘absent referent’. ‘Once the existence of meat,’ Adams explains, ‘is disconnected from the existence of an animal who was killed to become that “meat,” meat becomes unanchored by its original referent (the animal), becoming instead a free-floating image, used often to reflect women’s status as well as animals’.

 

Feminists for animal rights

Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR) Semi-annual Publication, 1994-1995, Add MS 89458/4/91. Credit: Feminists for Animal Rights

 

The cover of The Sexual Politics of Meat includes a visual example of the absent referent. It reproduces a coloured drawing of a naked woman wearing a cowboy hat. ‘What’s your cut?’ she asks. Her body is drawn into cuts of meat to indicate where the rump, loin, rib, and chuck are. The naked woman and the dead animal become synthesised into one. Both are exploited. ‘The woman, animalized; the animal, sexualized,’ Adams writes. ‘That’s the sexual politics of meat.’ After the book’s publication, readers sent Carol many more images, which she collected and incorporated into her presentations. These included sexualised women’s bodies with chicken heads to advertise a restaurant and a woman with a pig’s head laying on her back with her stockinged legs in the air to advertise a pig roast. After collecting these images together Carol published The Pornography of Meat (The Pornography of Meat, Carol J. Adams, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020, shelfmark YC.2022.a.315) first in 2003, then revised and expanded in 2020 with more than 300 sexist and speciesist images.

 

20230426_124234

Front cover of The Pornography of Meat by Carol J. Adams. Credit: The Pornography of Meat, Carol J. Adams, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020, shelfmark YC.2022.a.315

 

After reading Carol’s books, I saw images of animalized women and sexualized animals hitherto invisible to me. Similarly, the greater my care for animals became the more I saw their exploitation everywhere. I also became sensitised to the sexualised way some women portray themselves in some animal rights media stunts and protests. I now see these events as sexist. Their motivation may be to bring attention to animal abuse but they also, consciously or otherwise, perpetuate the exploitation of women. There is no competition between women and animals. I want both to be the focus of social justice. For social justice advocacy to be effective, actions for the freedom of some cannot accidentally or wilfully perpetuate the oppression of others. Meat, for example, should not be served at fundraising events like barbecues for women’s shelters or animal sanctuaries. Social justice demands open hearts and open minds to all those who are oppressed. If you become the focus of any criticism consider it as an opportunity to reflect and ask yourself - am I perpetuating the intersection of oppression or weaving the web of care?

 

Stallwood Writing

Kim Stallwood’s draft paper exploring the influence of eco-feminism on his animal rights practice for the Marti Kheel Conference, 2012, Add MS 89458/4/91. Credit: CC-BY Kim Stallwood

 

But, remember this about social justice: The journey is more important than the destination. Perfection is not a requirement for every step along the way. Of course, as a longstanding vegan, I want everyone to be like me. But is it enough? Living as a vegan is more than just about the food we eat, or the clothes we wear. There is more to being vegan than a nonviolent material lifestyle. It is also about the ideas we have, the words we say, the emotions we feel, and the way we behave. How we speak and behave with others. ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’ as Mahatma Gandhi is often credited with saying. The practice of social justice challenges dominant forces and reveals the depths and intricacies that sustain their oppression. Not all of them are always visible. They hide, sometimes presenting themselves as an uncomfortable benevolence. Think of the call to look after you and your family before helping strangers.

 

Yes, we live in a complicated and continuously changing world. We must be vigilant, ready, and unafraid to confront dominant forces whenever they appear. Otherwise, the intersection of oppressions prevails. The web of care stays out of reach. 

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

 

References

 

Adams, C. (2020) The Pornography of Meat, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YC.2022.a.315

 

Adams, C. (2015) The Sexual Politics of Meat: a feminist-vegetarian critical theory, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YKL.2017.a.1903

Animals and the climate emergency: readings on the global impact of industrial animal agriculture

From 7 March – 9 July 2023 the British Library Treasures Gallery has a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

 

To complement the exhibition Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four guest blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world. The posts are based on his own reading and research and aim to highlight some of the books held at the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

 

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the climate emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the impact of animal agriculture and the need for change:

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight. Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

When did a fact become a contradiction? The day I saw a roast chicken as charred remains of a dead animal, not as something delicious to eat. That day my fondness for food collided with my compassion for animals. That was fifty years ago, as I was a student learning how to cook French food and manage fancy restaurants. Instead of opting for work experience in a kitchen with haute cuisine, I spent the summer of 1973 employed in a chicken slaughterhouse.

 

Three years later, I was vegan, working at Compassion In World Farming and protesting against keeping chickens in battery cages too small to spread their wings, and pigs in stalls too narrow to turn around. Back in 1976, I was Compassion’s second full-time employee. The organisation’s notable growth from then to the present, now a pioneering international force for animals, is a reflection of people’s growing interest in food and what happens to it before it is on their plates. But that interest hasn’t resulted in the end of eating animals. The annual global number of animals killed for food increased from almost eight billion in 1961 to more than 70 billion in 2020. More than 1.2 billion farmed animals are killed annually in the UK and 55 billion in the USA.

Picture 1

Selection of leaflets from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), 1976-2008, Add MS 89458/4/58.  Copyright Compassion in World Farming.  Image Courtesy of Philip Lymbery (2023)

 

Philip Lymbery, Compassion’s Chief Executive, has written about how ‘a growing human population is in a furious competition for food with a burgeoning farm animal population’. We need to rethink the overpopulation problem; eight billion people bring their own set of issues. But seventy billion plus farmed animals present problems of an entirely different magnitude. Industrial agriculture, including intensive factory farming, is a significant cause of climate emergency. Animals raised for food are the real overpopulation problem. In Farmageddon (Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott. London: Bloomsbury, 2014, shelfmark YK.2014.a.16247), Philip Lymbery writes that ‘the global livestock industry already contributes 14.5 per cent of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions… more than all our cars, planes and trains put together’.

Eggs

Thousands of fertilised eggs lay in metal drawers placed on trolleys at a hatchery in Poland. Credit: Andrew Skowron/ We Animals Media (2018)

 

Fortunately, Compassion is not campaigning alone. There is a growing global movement of like-minded organisations seeking to improve animal welfare, protect the environment, end world hunger, and stop climate emergency. I also welcome the emergence of companies developing plant-based meat and cultivated meat products. Consumers increasingly buy alternative products to meat, eggs, dairy, and leather manufactured from non-animal sources. Not everyone will go vegan like me, but many people will, and already do, live a near-vegan lifestyle. Food production causes as much as 37 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, so this change in diet can be a tipping point for responding to the crisis appropriately.

Picture 2

Selection of ‘Ag.’ the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) newsletter, 1976-1978, Add MS 89458/4/59. Copyright Compassion in World Farming.  Image Courtesy of Philip Lymbery (2023)

 

Philip is the author of three books, Farmageddon, Dead Zone (Dead Zone: where the wild things were, Philip Lymbery, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, shelfmark YC.2018.a.3994), and Sixty Harvests Left (Sixty Harvests Left: how to reach a nature-friendly future, Philip Lymbery, London: Bloomsbury, 2022, shelfmark DRT ELD.DS.708596) that are essential reading for understanding the link between animals and climate emergency. He also explains the negative impact of industrial agriculture on the environment, water, wildlife, human health, and animal welfare. Two books inspired Philip to write. The first, Silent Spring (Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, London: Penguin Book, 1999, shelfmark YC.2000a.4976), is Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book exposing the dangerous effects of chemicals used in farming in the countryside, first published in America in 1962. Two years later, Rachel wrote the foreword to Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (Animal machines: the new factory farming industry, Ruth Harrison, London: Vincent Stuart, 1964, shelfmark W21/1046), which foresaw the problems associated with industrial farming that Philip examines in his books. It was reading Animal Machines that prompted Peter and Anna Roberts, dairy farmers concerned with agriculture’s direction, to establish Compassion in 1967.

Picture 3

Front covers of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison. Credits: Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, London: Penguin Book, 1999, shelfmark YC.2000a.4976, Animal machines: the new factory farming industry, Ruth Harrison, Boston: CABI, 2013, shelfmark YK.2013.a.26354

 

Philip’s first book, Farmageddon, questions the efficiency and efficacy of industrial farming. He asks if the ‘Farmageddon scenario—the death of our countryside, a scourge of disease and billions starving—[is] inevitable?’ There is no such thing as cheap meat. It comes with a hefty price, with both our health and our countryside at risk. Half of all antibiotics used worldwide (up to 80 per cent in the US) are routinely given to intensively farmed animals. Increasing amounts of land used to grow soya and grain for cattle in feedlots, sows in stalls, and chickens in cages, take away vital habitats that are homes to wildlife.

Picture 4

Front covers of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat and Dead Zone: where the wild things were by Philip Lymbery. Credits: Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott. London: Bloomsbury, 2014, shelfmark YK.2014.a.16247, Dead Zone: where the wild things were, Philip Lymbery, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, shelfmark YC.2018.a.3994

 

His second, Dead Zone, explores the global impact of industrial animal agriculture on wild animals and birds. For example, the critically endangered Sumatran elephant, orang-utans, and tigers live in the tropical rain forests of Sumatra, one of the islands of western Indonesia. Sumatra is also, where oil palm grows. Its fruit produces palm oil. One of its by-products is added to the feed fed to factory-farmed animals. To supply this trade, Sumatran tropical rain forests are cleared to intensively grow oil palms. Consequently, the jungle—home to elephants, orang-utans, and tigers—disappears at an alarming rate. 

Further to the issues raised by industrial agriculture, including its impact on wildlife is the harm it causes to the soil. Our ability to stop climate emergency and improve the soil health are vital to ensuring the planet’s wellbeing and our survival. In Sixty Harvest Left, Philip describes how intensive crop production to feed farmed animals removed from the land to industrial confinement depletes the soil. He also reports the UN’s statement that ‘if we carry on as we are, there could be just sixty harvests left in the world’s soils’. ”

Cows

Firefighters stand near their fire engine as they attempt to stop a wildfire from reaching an area on a dairy farm where pregnant cows are kept, Tabolango, Region de Valparaíso, Chile, 2012. Credit: Renata Valdivia/We Animals Media (2012)

 

Industrial agriculture may have provided us with cheap food in a lifetime. But at what cost? We only have a lifetime to turn around present agricultural systems to address climate emergency and invest in the soil for future harvests. Societal change is required to refocus industrial agriculture away from chemical-dependent, intensive factory farming. ‘Switching to soil-enhancing regenerative and agro ecological farming,’ Philip advises, ‘using techniques that replenish soil fertility and capture carbon along the way’.

Flooded cows

Cows who survived Hurricane Florence, stranded on a porch, surrounded by floodwaters. North Carolina, USA. Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/Unsplash (2020)

 

At an individual level, I interpret Philip’s advice as a call to go vegan. Boycotting animal products and ingredients reduces the consumer demand for them. To transition to vegan, try plant-based meat and cultivated meat products. If you feel you must eat meat, eggs, and dairy, only buy them from proven authenticated sources where the animals live free-range and drug-free. Add your voice as a newly minted vegan for the systemic changes we need to how food is produced.

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

References

 

Carson, R. (1999) Silent Spring, London: Penguin Books, shelfmark YC.2000a.4976

Harrison, R. (1964) Animal machines: the new factory farming industry, London: Vincent Stuart, shelfmark W21/1046

Lymbery, P. (2017) Dead Zone: where the wild things were, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YC.2018.a.3994

Lymbery, P., Oakeshott I. (2014) Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YK.2014.a.16247

 Lymbery, P. (2022) Sixty Harvests Left: how to reach a nature-friendly future, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark ELD.DS.708596

22 March 2022

7 Days, Culture and the Arts

In 2020 the British Library acquired the papers of Anthony Barnett, best known as the founder of the campaigning organisation Charter 88 and the website openDemocracy. This series of six posts highlights a discrete part of the archive, consisting of documents and ephemera from Barnett’s time as a member of the collective behind the revolutionary weekly newspaper '7 Days'.  

Fifty years ago, on 22 March 1972, '7 Days' published an emergency issue that saw it go into ‘suspended animation’. Funds were sought for a relaunch but, apart from a special issue in May 1972 to commemorate the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, the paper disappeared. In this sixth and final post in our series, Maxine Molyneux recalls her time as Arts and Culture Editor and reflects on a unique experiment in cultural politics.

(The second post in the series was written by Anthony Barnett, the third post was by Graham Burchell, the fourth post by Bill Mayblin and the fifth by John Mathews.)

 

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Cover of the emergency issue of 7 Days, March 22, 1972. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Not long before the launch of the first issue I was invited by the 7 Days collective to take on the job of Arts and Culture Editor. At the time, I was stitching together a living as a freelance journalist, writing articles here and there, doing part-time editing and translation jobs and writing PR leaflets on art shows for the amusingly titled Tomorrow’s News. I was lucky to have a regular commission for the International Herald Tribune to cover exhibitions and fine art auctions, and write the odd feature and book review, for which I was paid $12 a piece, almost covering my weekly rent.

In 1971, London’s cultural scene was alive with radical groups of artists, film makers and playwrights who were part of the broader political ferment, not only of the student movement but of a generation. At various times in that transitory world I had found myself sharing houses and flats with activists and artists, one time with the founders of the Red Ladder agitprop theatre group, another with one of the leaders of the radical film activist group, Cinema Action. There was a feeling of excitement, of innovation about, but there was also an intellectual appetite for the radical cultural moments and thinkers of the past, whether in drama, art or film.

Young activists debated the work of Brecht and Eisenstein, read Freud and Lacan as well as Marx, Mao and Lenin. I recall attending a very serious weekly (or was it fortnightly?) - Theoretical Practice group [1] run by Kasim Kahn from his flat in Finsbury Park. We travelled up by car, me, the feminist artist Mary Kelly, and Clive Goodwin (our driver), literary agent and founder of the Black Dwarf. There, in our group of seven, we pored over passages of Althusser, Balibar, Pierre Phillipe Rey and learned that The Grundrisse marked a distinct break in Marx’s thinking.

My life then was lived in contrasting spaces – private views in the old art world’s Bond Street galleries – and the fringe world of art activism, politics and theory groups, and they would often collide. I remember being at some private view held at the Royal Academy when a group calling themselves ‘the Black Hand Gang’ let off a small smoke bomb leading to a dramatic evacuation of the assembled guests. Agitprop cinema and theatre, fringe performance and avante garde music, and some madness too – all were part of the wave of creative energy and radical politics of that time.

What was compelling about 7 Days was that it was a project of the independent Marxist left, and was fully committed to serious and critical coverage of culture. I was ready for a change, and without hesitation I accepted their offer and took the post of Arts Editor for the brief life of the paper.

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7 Days’ arts coverage attempted to bridge high and popular culture. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

I knew some members of the collective if not personally then by name. I had met Peter Fuller in his art critic days at an ICA exhibition of Picasso’s Minotaur prints which we were both covering, and got to know him as a friend. I had also met Fred Halliday earlier at the offices of Black Dwarf, on my return from a work trip to Argentina, and was serving as interpreter for some Latin American revolutionaries who were on a European fundraising tour. When Fred and I met again in 7 Days we ended up sharing a tiny office with grimy red lino, and freezing, but for a bar heater which my co-occupant would stand in front of to warm up while the backs of his trousers slowly burned ever larger holes. No one cared much about their threads on the 7 Days collective.

Reviewing the 21 issues of the paper half a century later I am struck by the breadth and depth of its cultural coverage. 7 Days aimed to transform what it saw as the regressive tropes contained in ‘British values’, racism, sexism, philistinism, homophobia and elitism among them.

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The first year of the gay liberation movement’s existence celebrated in 7 Days with a discussion of the London GLF group’s manifesto. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

More ‘Gramsci than Guevara” it was a platform for feminist ideas, and it was committed to anti-racist struggles and cultural interventions. In its arts coverage in particular it sought to create a bridge between high culture and popular culture. Short articles were accompanied by longer think pieces, underground and radical manifestos, analyses of advertisements, reviews of books like One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch. Thanks to being able to draw on a pool of talented writers sympathetic to 7 Days, there was no difficulty in finding a diversity of cultural content. Peter Wollen (aka Lucien Rey) on Realism, John Berger and Anya Bostock on a biography of Mayakovsky, but also a ‘Rock Special’ which included an interview with Jack Bruce ‘Life with Cream” and an appreciation of Miles Davis.

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Issue 4 ran a photo-feature on the 1971 Miss World protests by womens’ and gay liberation activists. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

By today’s standard 7 Days was neither egalitarian nor inclusive in its internal relations.

As Rosie Van de Beek observes, the collective was made up of ‘insiders and outsiders’. Nor was it as inclusive in its coverage – notably of Black artists and writers - as it would be today. A piece on Mustafa Matura’s play As Time Goes By was perhaps the exception.

Yet feminist content there was aplenty, thanks largely to the women in and around the collective. Articles included ‘A bash at Women’s Hour’; a review by Sally Beauman of Cosmopolitan, flagged up as ‘an odious new magazine for women’, a critical discussion of the Playboy exhibition, a special feature on Miss World and Mecca, a photo feature on what was described in somewhat patronising language as a ‘ large and satisfactory demonstration’ that ‘took place outside the Albert Hall’. This, along with critical coverage of vaginal deodorants - symptomatic of capitalism - a report on a revolt by members of the BFI against the governors, pieces on Surrealism, a Hogarth show, and Kathleen Tynan interviewing Germaine Greer on the publication of The Female Eunuch. Positive appraisals of Alexandra Kollontai and an extended interview with Simone de Beauvoir by Rosalind Delmar, and pieces by Laura Mulvey and Mary Kelly, brought feminist analysis and politics into art theory, film and popular music.

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Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive

It is sad to note how many of the active members of the collective and its supporters are no longer with us, friends Peter Wollen, Clive Goodwin, Peter Fuller, and dear Fred Halliday [2] among them. Also sad to recall others whose brilliant work in the cultural field has fallen out of favour - I think here of Trevor Griffiths whose play Occupations, on the Turin strikes of 1922, was a subtle exploration of Gramsci and left political strategy.

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Playwright Trevor Griffiths respond to Tom Nairn’s review of his play ‘Occupations’. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Since those times the work of the margins has mostly moved into the mainstream, and the members of the collective went into the academy, publishing, or into other professions. 7 Days was a short, intense, highly rewarding and formative experience for those associated with it. It was a space where politics, culture and radical ideas found expression. It forged some important and enduring friendships. When it folded I decided not to continue in journalism but to head for university, where I remained.

The times of 7 Days were so very different, shaped as they were by a young generation that believed that political progress and social change was possible. Important and positive things were achieved in and after the 1970s before reaction set in. Today we live in more threatening, darker times, but a new generation of radical activists has come into politics, incensed by growing inequality, corrupt elites, and the failures of governments to tackle the climate crisis. There is a revival of interest in Marxism and radical thought among students, and more urgent talk of the need for change. The work of cultural transformation continues, but proceeds by other means - the print media is joined by podcasts, social networking, blogs and much else besides. I suspect that if 7 Days were alive today it would be in one of those formats, or perhaps something entirely new, and, who knows, it might well have been able to survive and to flourish.

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‘Seven days to save 7 Days’. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

 

[1] Theoretical Practice started in 1970 as a reading group and set up other groups dedicated to thinking critically about Marx’s work and that of the French structuralists. It went on to produce seven issues of a journal also called Theoretical Practice, that published translations of leading theorists in the Althusserian school.

[2] Fred and Maxine married and had their son Alex in 1985.

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