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Lexicon for the Series of More-than-Human Encounters


The lexicon contains less evident terminology used in the lectures of the series. A lot of the explanations of the concepts are found in public encyclopedia, but when possible we ask the speakers who used the word in their talks, to give their own definition. This is a learning lexicon: if you have a suggestion for a better description, feel free to contact Goedele.Nuyttens@vub.be or Eva.Decaesstecker@kaaitheater.be.



Ableism: discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities and/or people who are perceived to be disabled. Ableism characterizes people who are defined by their disabilities as inferior to the non-disabled. On this basis, people are assigned or denied certain perceived abilities, skills, or character orientations.

Absent referent: (introduced by Carol J. Adams in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat) Behind every meal of meat is an absence: the death of the animal whose place the meat takes. This is the "absent referent." The absent referent functions to cloak the violence inherent to meat eating, to protect the conscience of the meat eater and render the idea of individual animals as immaterial to anyone’s selfish desires. It is that which separates the meat eater from the animal and the animal from the end product. The function of the absent referent is to keep our "meat" separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal, to keep something from being seen as having been someone, to allow for the moral abandonment of another being.

Agential being/agency: the potential of doing something or acting upon something.

Agroecology: an applied science that studies ecological processes applied to agricultural production systems.

Ahumanism: letting the other (non-human being) be and acknowledging that we are in this world together, that we share space, without making assumptions or projecting our own ideas and feelings onto the other at that time. Without imposing ourselves upon it. (concept by Patricia MacCormack, paraphrased by Agnes Trzak in her lecture at Kaaitheater)

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: intelligence demonstrated by machines unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, which involves consciousness and emotionality.

Animal liberation: a social movement which seeks an end to the moral and legal distinction drawn between human and non-human animals, an end to the status of animals as property, and an end to their use in the research, food, clothing, and entertainment industries.

Animality studies: an interdisciplinary academic field focused on the cultural study of animals and animality.

Animal sentience: what non-human animals feel, perceive, or experience subjectively.

Animal welfare: the well-being of non-human animals.

Anthropocene: the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Anthropocentric: ethical paradigm in which humans are the only valuable beings (i.e. everything else is measured in terms of its value to humans).

Anthropos: the problematic and particular conception of the standard, rational (and arguably white and male) ‘human subject’ as the centre around which others’ struggle for full legal recognition (can be read as a critique on the previous two terms).

Astrology: a pseudoscience that involves the forecasting of earthly and human events through the observation and interpretation of the fixed stars, the sun, the moon, and the planets.



Beingness: see Legal beingness

Biodiversity: the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level.



Civil code: instrument with the codification of private law in continental civil law countries.

Civil law: legal system of most continental European countries, characterized by statutory codification.

Common law: legal system of Anglo-American countries, characterized by judicial law-making.

Chromatogram: the visual output of the chromatograph, the instrument to do chromatography. Chromatography is a physical method of separation that distributes components to separate between two phases, one stationary (stationary phase), the other (the mobile phase) moving in a definite direction.

Climate justice: a term used to frame global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. This is done by relating the causes and effects of climate change to concepts of justice, particularly environmental justice and social justice.

Conservationism: the conservation movement, also known as nature conservation, is a political, environmental, and social movement that seeks to protect natural resources, including animal and plant species as well as their habitat for the future.

Crip: Adapted from dominant discourse slang for the pejorative term cripple. The word is being reclaimed by some disability movements. With the rise of the disability rights movement in the 1960s came the idea of disability pride; a movement to shed the feelings of shame that society had forced on people with disabilities. Part of the process of disability pride was reclaiming words used to shame the disability community. Thus, crip's new meaning developed as an emancipatory term within the disability rights movement.



Ecocide: criminalized human activity that violates the principles of environmental justice, as by substantially damaging or destroying ecosystems or by harming the health and well-being of a species (including humans).

Eurocentrism: a worldview that is centered on Western civilization or a biased view that favors it over non-Western civilizations.



Food forest: the oldest form of agriculture, located at the edge of a forest, where biodiversity is at its highest.



Geographic regions: in geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (environmental geography).



Humanness: The traditional definition of humanness as the condition or quality of being human, is problemized by Agnes Trzak in her lecture, where she states that many of the characteristics attributed to human persons can be attributed to non-human animals as well. And not all of the characteristics considered traditionally as human, are applicable to all human persons. A logic of inherently “human” traits is what allows dominant culture to dehumanise, animalise and objectify Othered individuals.

Human saviourism: In her lecture, Geertrui Cazaux states that humans shouldn't present themselves as animal’s saviours but as their allies. The problem with human saviourism is that it is about centring humans, instead of the oppression of animals and raising their voices, bringing them into the picture and standing in solidarity with them. 

Habitat: the array of resources, physical and biotic factors that are present in an area, such as to support the survival and reproduction of a particular species.



Indigenous: produced, growing, living, or occurring natively or naturally in a particular region or environment.

Instrumental value: value measured in terms of the use of something for others (usually humans).

Interdependency: a state of mutual dependency, regardless of social standing and identity. This concept shifts away from the idea of independence as valuable, or even achievable. Further it acknowledges that bodies, that are not construed as “productive” in capitalist society, are indeed valuable and play an important role in the social structure of a group. (see Sunaura Taylor’s book Beasts of Burden and in her chapter "Animal Crips" in Disability and Animality by Jenkins et al.

Intersectionality: an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing.

Intrinsic legal relevance: relevance to law without the need to express it in terms of human interests.

Intrinsic value: value that something has for its own sake, independent of use-value for others.

Invasive alien species: label for animals, plants or other organisms introduced directly or indirectly by people into places out of their natural range of distribution, generating an impact on local ecosystems and species.



Jurisdiction: the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice, as defined by the kind of case, and the location of the issue.



Kyriarchy: the reign of the master, be it hidden in patriarchy, racism, ableism, speciesism or any other form of oppression.



Legal beingness: proposed legal status for animals that is based in vulnerability and embodiment (proposed by Maneesha Deckha).

Legal person: central unit of law, rights-and-duties bearing entity.

Legal thing: object of law, entity over which rights extend.



Metabolism: the set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms. The three main purposes of metabolism are: the conversion of food to energy; the conversion of food/fuel to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and some carbohydrates; and the elimination of metabolic wastes.

More-than-human: idea that acknowledges the fluid boundaries of living bodies, (also human bodies) in which there is never just 'one' species. All species are multispecies. This idea applied to human bodies recognizes that i.e. human bodies are literally more 'not us' than 'us'. This points to an absurdity (or trap) of thinking in terms of 'bounded' species and which allows us to speculate (or formulate) that we are all fluid ecosystems. Though for discursive purposes, the notion of separate social and natural realms is useful at times, when we are busy taking into account the needs, timeframes, resources, materials, and metabolic dynamics of natural realm entities, the term 'more-than-human' is evocative of a fluid, unbounded ecosystem that includes and does not negate. (proposed by Debra Solomon, also see her lecture.)

More-than-food: this is a term famously used by Val Plumwood to describe an approach to others that forgoes purposes of extraction and 'use'. For example animals, plants, and living soil ecosystems are not just (food) for humans. Or the natural realm is not solely for human extraction. Val Plumwood was an anthropologist/ecofeminist that survived two crocodile attacks in one day. This experience amongst others shaped her thinking with regard to being considered 'food' for 'others'. It lays the foundation for an approach to 'others' that goes beyond 'extraction', or 'instrumentalisation'.

Multidirectional learning: a teaching and learning style that focuses on the many interactions that happen between individuals in an educational environment. Using this approach, learning takes place in three ways: learner-to-learner, teacher-to-learner and learner-to-teacher.



Non-human: term used in critical animal studies and in the animal rights movement, to refer to all other animals than human animals, in an effort to expose anthropocentric dichotomising language and to make explicit that humans are also animals, sharing many psychical and mental characteristics – such as registering pain, compassion, memory, and some cognitive function – on a continuum scale. Some activists and authors however prefer the term 'other animals' (humans and other animals). 



Ontology: the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, becoming, and reality.

Other animals: animals other than human animals. (see Non-human)



Permaculture: a global and systemic concept to create ecosystems, while respecting biodiversity.

Phallogocentrism: term coined by Jacques Derrida, refers to the privileging of the masculine (phallus) in the construction of meaning.

Phenomenology: the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. It attempts to create conditions for the objective study of topics usually regarded as subjective: consciousness and the content of conscious experiences such as judgements, perceptions, and emotions.

Philanthropist: someone who voluntarily organizes efforts for socially useful purposes. 

Praxis: the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. It can also mean the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas.

Property: any right or interest in or to property of any kind whatsoever, whether real, personal or mixed and whether tangible or intangible.



Radical observation: a methodology by Debra Solomon/Urbaniahoeve that teaches natural world awareness towards ecosystem stewardship. The technique focuses attention on processes occurring over time; i.e. plants growing throughout seasons, plant communities wandering through space, habitats accommodating ever more plant and animal life.

Rational being: beings endowed with the faculty of reason.

Regeneration: the process of renewal, restoration, and tissue growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage.



Sentient being: a being with the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. The prevailing scientific view today is that sentience is generated by specialized neural structures and processes – neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological.

Speciesism: the differing treatment or moral consideration of individuals based on their species membership.

Stakeholder: an actor, individual or collective (in a group or organisation), who is actively or passively concerned/involved by a decision or a project. 

Standing: ability to initiate legal proceedings.



Terra nullius: a Latin expression meaning ‘nobody's land’. It was a principle sometimes used in international law to justify claims that territory may be acquired by a state's occupation of it.



Umwelt: perceptual world in which an organism exists and acts as a subject.

UNCAHP: United Nations Convention for Animal Health and Protection.



Vulnerability studies: the study to analyse the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. Vulnerability research covers a complex, multidisciplinary field including development and poverty studies, public health, climate studies, security studies, engineering, geography, political ecology, and disaster risk management.



Zoöcratic spaces: spaces where the more-than-human also has agency.

Zoönomy: term used by zoöps to indicate the quality of life of a whole human and non-human multispecies community. Zoönomy is centered around ecological aspects, but includes economic, social, legal, aesthetic and political qualities and relations. In the practice of zoönomy all these relations are considered to be part of the same sphere, and to matter to each other.

Zoöp: a new form of organisation in which humans and non-humans become collaborators within an organization. The zoöp contributes to a stronger social and legal position for nonhumans within society and works possible towards a practice of reciprocal ecological-economic growth that is an alternative to the extractivist dynamics of capitalism. (proposed by Klaus Kuitenbrouwer)


Photo overview: Dunes of Schouwen-Duiveland© Darko Lagunas (instagram: @darkolagunas)

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