Marta Segarra photographed in the garden of the Ateneo Barcelonés, in Barcelona, on June 16, 2022. Gianluca Battista
We live a new almost religious fever with science.
They tell us that it is a scientific fact and people are already losing their papers, they assume that it will always be true.
But we must not overlook the fact that science is a continuous debate, it also progresses”.
Marta Segarra (Barcelona, 58 years old) shivers run through her body every time someone tries to settle a conversation by saying: "Science says so and if something is clear in this life it is that two plus two equals four".
In tune with thinkers such as Donna Haraway, this philologist, professor and researcher at the Laboratoire d'Études de Genre et Sexualité in Paris distrusts all those discourses that cling to scientific essentialism and absolute truths.
“Sometimes we forget that two plus two equals four because we invented mathematics.
It is a manufactured language,” she clarifies,
a hot June morning in Barcelona.
Segarra publishes now
Opening the frontiers of the human
(Galaxia Gutenberg, 2022), an investigation into what unites us and what really separates us in the human-animal relationship.
An essay in which he applies, once again, that studied look that dissects the interactions in the axes of inequality.
Jane Goodall: "We can't close all the mega farms but we can improve them"
What is a human?
We are all human.
It is a concept that refers to the animal part of humans and the human part of some non-human animals.
Like what we call pets, domestic animals.
It could be said that we have manufactured or changed them and, therefore, they are human for that reason.
Why does the saying "dog is man's best friend" irritate you?
Because it is a simplistic phrase and does not have a return trip.
We would never say that “man is the dog's best friend”.
Because it is actually a hierarchical phrase.
Here we are not talking about friendship between equals, in that statement underlies an idea of loyalty, obedience and submission.
Your book is a bit about that submission, why do we humans think that we are exceptional and unique?
It is a belief that is rooted in Western thought, which unfortunately is now quite hegemonic.
The trick of language and reasoning, or the capacity for a sense of humor or for honoring the dead have been used to consider us exceptional over animals.
And is not it?
In my book I try to show that these arguments are fabrications to justify this exceptionality.
As the anthropologist Philippe Descola says, nature is something that man has invented.
We have built a binarism between nature and culture to place ourselves on a higher plane.
You want to problematize this notion.
He questions the supposed values of progress of the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment had great things, such as the advancement of modern medicine, but others were not so good.
For women in Europe, for example, the Renaissance was an involution in some aspects and it could be said that they had more freedoms, in quotes, in the Middle Ages.
The same thing happened with animals.
In what sense?
The idea that reason was something exclusively human was consecrated and the socioeconomic system was consolidated that has led us to this neoliberalism that is bothering our lives so much.
Speaking of women and animals, 80% of animal activists are women.
What do you think is due?
Historically, the first animal associations that were created in England were made up of women and now there are many more than men in them.
I think that because women, by socialization and not by essence, are more trained to see the interaction of dominations, what is called intersectionality.
We perceive them more because we also suffer them more.
It is not that women are the ones who suffer the most, but because of this socialization we tend to give more importance to affection and to get involved.
The philosopher Vinciane Despret, who defends the animal turn, complained in this newspaper that if science applies a certain feminine gaze, "it will be considered as cheaper science and will mean being discredited in the academy."
It is always told by Jane Goodall, that she began to see attitudes in chimpanzees totally contrary to what she had read in books and what the specialists in the faculty had taught her, but that in her day she could not publish it.
A lot of scholars saw in the 1950s, or even the 19th century, that gender is fluid, for example.
But those were speeches that could not be published because affirming such theories for those people meant being removed from the academy.
Take up the famous 2010
New York Times article
that asked "if animals could be gay."
Twelve years later, is it time to question gender barriers?
Ethology has come a long way since the 1950s.
Many people still self-interestedly cite studies from that time, in which humans had a very separate gender: women belonged to the domestic space;
to men, the public.
Anyone who tried to cross or stay in the middle was severely punished.
Homosexuality also enters here, because this is linked to an obligatory heterosexuality that was perceived as natural.
Socially, we have been changing these ideas and the perception we have of the so-called nature, as its law was reproduction.
If we have assumed the pleasure thing with humans, should we do it with animals?
Animals mate to reproduce, but later we understood that sex and sexuality are open to other factors.
And not only for pleasure, but for the idea of submission and obligation.
Whoever says that man is the only animal that rapes is wrong.
There have been cases of rape between elephants.
Do not trust that Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest.
It is that the simplistic reading that has remained is a contradiction with what Darwin himself said.
The strongest does not mean that it is the most adaptable, and that can happen through symbiosis or collaboration.
You say that slaughterhouses are the symbol of the "deanimalization" of our society.
There has never been as much meat eaten as now, and what is eaten is crap.
Only the economic and cultural elite can afford a steak from a happy cow.
The industrialization of animal husbandry, beyond slaughterhouses, is extractivist.
What do you mean?
Theorist and activist Verónica Gago, one of the founders of Ni Una Menos, defines it very well: we live in a society that sucks our energy, not so much in the way we work, but also in how we have become a raw material to exploit from morning to night.
With the non-human animals that we eat, it is much clearer: wild optimization has made them that social protein from before they are born, in the fertilization processes, until they die.
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