“Neutral Signifier”

“Ostensibly free of any (human) linguistic, ethnic, racial, class, or gender traits, the indigenous species is put into symbolic circulation as a neutral signifier incapable, it would seem, of communicating political bias against any individual or any constituency in Canada.” (Shukin 4)

From early in the reading, this quote stood out to me. I flagged it and decided to go back to it and dissect it more. I found her analysis to be something very intriguing and something I think about and struggle with very often. It is the notion that animals are neutral, that they don’t have a bias, which I find to be very complex. We don’t view animals in any other light except for on occasions, gender. By demonstrating this animal as a symbol of a nation, humans reinforce their mobility and fluidity to show that it is neither racism, nor classist, nor sexist, which to me is not a fair observation. Animals feel, they see, they think, and although I am aware that they do not fall under a certain racial category, some might disagree, I find it very disheartening that humans are quick to assume they represent what we want them to. This goes back to a larger idea discussed later in the reading about how animals are viewed and what categorizes an animal, humans have been quick to take a voice for them and classify them as neutral beings. 

To call animals neutral is to basically deny them their agency, is to think of them as nothing. I feel that it is pertinent for us to realize that they are not neutral, but in order to really comprehend that, one must see them as more than objects. I found Shukin’s piece to be both stimulating and challenging. She left me with many questions and things that remain vague. I feel that throughout her piece I got lost because of all the discourse around these problematic topics. However, I feel that this quote is a gateway to a bigger problem, one that isn’t necessarily cleared up. Some people continue viewing animals as a species without feelings or souls, while others feel that they are living just like us and should not be objectified. Shukin makes me wonder how animal capital ties to this and if it is part of the movement to male people realize that animals are more than neutral objects, they are a live species with feelings and capabilities to be bias. The questions still remain. 


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