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Keywords:

  • agency;
  • action;
  • resistance;
  • human-animal relations

Abstract

In this paper we develop a relational approach to the question of animal agency. We distinguish between agency and action and, using three examples of non-human animal behaviour, explore how human-other animal interactions might be understood in terms of action, agency and resistance. In order to do this we draw on the distinction between primary and corporate agency found in the work of Margaret Archer, arguing that, while non-human animals are able to act and to exercise primary agency, they are unable to exercise corporate agency. Animals are therefore agents; they act and their actions have consequences, they also resist conditions which they do not like and, in some circumstances, are able to change the conditions of their agency. We discuss the place of animals in the social world and the political implications of this way of viewing animal agency.