Concepts and Practices of Multispecies Justice

Photo by Mark Higgins via Shutterstock, ID: 163076480.

In 2020, in the wake of the bushfires in Australia and ongoing climate related catastrophes around the globe, and now in the face of the ravages being brought by COVID-19, the world looks very different to the way it did, even a year ago. Radically altered times demand radically altered ways of thinking and living. If they are to fulfil their role of supporting decent and flourishing lives, our core concepts and basic institutions need to become responsive to the realities of the moment. It is the task of universities to join with others – artists, activists, policy makers – to catalyse these transformations and help imagine how we bring them into our institutional worlds and daily lives. In a world where the Anthropocene is heightening injustices and introducing new forms of injustice, justice is one of the concepts and an area of practice crying out for wholesale renovation.

Historically, justice has most commonly been thought of the preserve of humans, and critical scholarship and advocacy principally have sought to ensure that all humans were subjects of justice. More recently, the grave harms inflicted on non-human animals and the environment have come to be understood as injustices, demanding that we ask, ‘what would justice across the human-more-than-human world look like and entail?’ To date, scholars of human rights, animal ethics and environmental studies have worked to conceptualise justice, analyse the production of injustice, and reimagine institutions with a view to their respective subjects of concern (humans, animals, environment). The impacts of the most pressing problems of our era, however – climate change, indigenous rights, resource depletion, and industrial farming for example – cross the boundaries of these fields and subject categories.

This project is the first of its kind explicitly dedicated to multispecies justice. Over the last 18-months, the Multispecies Justice project has challenged scholars to reconceptualise justice in a way that is sufficiently capacious and fluid to accommodate the vast breadth of our multispecies world. This requires our imagining and including modes of representation and other political practices equipped to appreciate and accommodate the justice claims of all ecological beings – individuals, systems, and their relations.

Through collaboration, shared imagining and interdisciplinary, multispecies conversations, the Multispecies Justice collective has worked to produce scholarship that penetrates and transforms the three areas of research (human rights, environmental studies, human-animal studies) and scholarship in various disciplines, at the same time as defining a new field.

Looking forwards, with interdisciplinary, multi-institutional and more-than-human co-operation at the core of this projects design, the Multispecies Justice collective, alongside collaborating academics, artists, activists and practitioners aim to bring desperately needed insights, perspectives and practical ideas to a world where all species and multispecies relations are beset by grave injustices.