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  • Writer's pictureThe Animal Turn

S3E4 - Invisibilized Animals with Paula Arcari (Show Notes)

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

“The urban is a place where we have a lot of --. A lot of these animals that are just not paid attention to. They are just so much part of the wall paper of our lives” – Paula Arcari

Published a little over a year ago, Claudia chats with Paula Arcari about how animals are rendered invisible in the urban – not only materially but epistemically and ethically too. They grapple with which animals are considered in the celebration of multispecies urban entanglements, and which are not.

Paula Arcari is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow within the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University, UK. Her three-year project ‘The Visual Consumption of Animals: Challenging Persistent Binaries’ aims to support transformational change in the way humans conceive and interact with nature. Before joining Edge Hill, Paula worked at RMIT University in Melbourne on a range of climate change projects and completed her PhD there in 2018. She is primarily interested in understanding the constitution of societal change and stability in relation to climate and environmental change, the expropriation of nature, and the oppression of nonhuman animals. Find out more about Paula here.

00:30 – Claudia introduces the episode

  • Housekeeping – Delay in release, Claudia moving to Austria

  • Thank you to A.P.P.L.E – Check out their website (

  • Thank you to Paulina Siemieniec – thank you for the microphone!

  • A few sound disruptions in the episode

  • Introducing Paula Arcari

3:30 – Welcome to the show and why do you think the urban is important?

  • Urban a place of consideration for a more recent paper [See When Species Don't Meet] but the interest started when Paula lived in Melbourne

  • Disconnect between feel good ideas about nature and the city which comes up against slaughterhouses, zoos, racetracks, and rodeos that hide violence. These lives seem to be excluded from discussions about urban nature.

  • The urban is a transit zone for many animals in their commodified lives.

  • Erik Swyngedouw [Check out his Google Scholar Profile] talks about urban cities as catalysts. “The metabolism of our activities are centred in cities even though we draw on the rest of the world, the processes are feeding urban activities”

08:00 – Animals, Meat and the Urban

  • Previously looked at ethical and sustainable meat and the phenomenon of ethical and sustainable meat. These self-identifying activities are centered on urban food markets.

  • “Construction of the ethical was being performed” – Paula

  • Seaspiracy recently released -

  • Picture of a beef burger – McDonalds – sustainably sourced beef [See - Animal Justice calls McBullsh*t]

  • Concerns around the antibiotics in meat

12:40 – Climate science and vegetarianism

  • Studied climate change and environmental science and yet very few of them were vegetarian

  • A wall to thinking about diet and food.

  • Qualitative versus quantitative research to understanding climate change

  • Mind opened up by Critical Animal Studies

  • Animal agriculture not part of syllabi considering climate change

  • “Climate movement often quiet resistant to having any sort of animal message brought into it” – Paula

16:00 – Invisibilization

  • Can be understood in different ways. Invisibilization is a process. “How are they rendered discursively and conceptually and epistemically” invisible. Our systems have naturalised animals’ subordination.

  • That is a structural invisibility. It goes through every dimension of our society. “It normalises their constitutions as functional”…”so that they are effectively invisible in any other way” – Paula

18:32 – Paula’s Paper and Entanglement

  • Premise of paper – observation about body of literature of entanglement literature. “A relation is almost always assumed to be reciprocal”. The critical side was perhaps missing and skating over commodified relations. [See When Species Don't Meet]

  • Haraway and the popularization of ‘entanglement’ and ‘relationality’

  • Entanglement is valuable to appreciate these relations. But what comes from recognising these entanglements?

  • Food animals often invisible in cities, particularly if they are part of intensive systems.

  • Conversations about entanglement tend to include some animals and excluded others – More commodified animals whose use is part of our everyday lives is not as visible as something to problematize.

24:30 – The entanglements of pets

  • “Pets and the sorts of entanglements that are taken for granted need to be problematized as well” – Paula

  • Pet industry is a huge industry and encourages breeders based on the commodification of companionship

  • Benign and benevolent relations need to be considered too

26:30 – Invisibilization of species or of relations?

  • Rat as a pet or as lab animal

  • “Is it a matter of once we make it visible things will be good?” – Claudia

  • Visual invisibility versus conceptual and epistemic vulnerability

  • Trouble what greater visibility implies

  • Identify probably three-five kinds of invisibility: epistemic (knowledge systems that do not see animals as anything other than something to use); ontological invisibility (precludes self-directed ways of being for animals); literal invisibility (Doesn’t always correlate with moral visibility); discursive Invisibility (Carol Adams absent referent an example and aggregate terms also invisibilize)

  • Deborah Bird Rose – Double Death and James Hatley and the wiping out of generations. “A progressive ontological invisibility – what would happen to all the animals if we did use animals in this way?” – Paula

36:00 – Cognitive Dissonance

  • Marvel at wild and eat domestic

  • Urban-nature flows and geographies

  • Ambivalence around loving and hurting animals

  • Cross-over between different animal use especially when you look at the animal-industrial complex.

  • Blurred lines between wildlife, entertainment, and food animals

41:30 – Hierarchies of invisibility

  • “Some animal uses get afforded more moral concern than others” – Paula

  • Animals who suffer acutely and physically are often much more visible than other types of suffering, like psychological and ontological suffering

  • “For the individual animals the experience of physical, psychological and ontological suffering is equal” – Paula

  • Problems are making poster children for understanding problematic relations

45:00 – Commodification

  • Seems central to their invisibility, so what do we mean when we talk about commodification?

  • “A certain monetary value is put on a quality of an animal” – Paula

  • Always trying to produce more as implications

  • “That profit imperative infuses everything” even relations “that people consider benign” – Paula

  • “Commodification drives the production of more life” – Paula

  • A third of greyhounds are killed, roughly the same in horse racing

  • Regular culling at zoos

  • “A lot of invisible management going on behind the scenes of industries considered benign” – Paula

  • What are the motives behind the relations? Or for maintaining zoos?

  • Different valuations of cows and bulls (bull semen versus whole cow) – Kathryn Gillespie [LINK]

  • Horse racing – questions of value. After racing, breeding becomes the next valued commodity

  • Invisible traces of these animals

  • What does the act of problematizing them do?

53:40 – Bringing the urban back in

  • Why is focusing on the urban in particular be a space where animal studies scholars focus their attention?

  • The urban is a place where a lot of these animals who are not paid attention to are

  • “In cities some of the most undesirable aspects of our relations with animals exist” – Paula

  • Unsettling our taken for granted relations, start with the everyday

57:00 – City as human

  • Constantly reinforce the city as a human place

  • Interesting to get a sense of just how many animals are in cities

  • Nicolas Delon, Pervasive Captivity -

  • Paula tried to make a census for greater Melbourne for industries in the city

  • Hard to find these numbers

  • “What goes on behind people’s doors is totally unknown” – Paula

01:00:35 – Talk about the quote

  • The trivialization of a being and their homes

  • “Our sense of entitlement, it speaks to that for me” – Paula

  • What kind of violence is acceptable? The idea of necessity is used in a variety of ways in the law [ Check out Season 1 on Animals and Law]

  • Animals Manifesto in response to Covid also separated essential and non-essential animals

  • What work do those words do and for who?

  • What do future cities and the environments they are in relationship need?

  • Discursive Invisibilization that excludes ways of thinking differently

  • Focusing on invisibilization can show these shadow spaces and disrupt their normalization

  • Process of questioning is important

  • “We could be better” – Paula

01:08:23 – What are you working on now?

  • In England working on Spectacularized animals – how animals are visually consumed. Spaces where certain conceptions of animals are confirmed and reinforced

  • Look at the infrastructures of control and containment – all the invisible tools and techniques (the tethers, the cages, the ramps, the time)

  • Routinized suffering – the hours the day that are invisible, 20-30 years in the same cage.

  • Psychological and ontological violence as significant as physical violence, especially when it is prolonged

  • On Twitter (@rainfed5)

1:17:48 – Animal Highlight

  • Exert from Dawn Day Biehler about rats in the great depression

  • Rats at the centre of an urban story

  • Some interesting facts about rats: nocturnal, teeth ever stop growing, thigmotaxic, incredible senses, incredible social. They are prone to depression and peer-pressure

01:23:00 – Thanks yous

  • Thank you to Paula, A.P.P.L.E, Jeremy John, and Gordon Clarke.


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