An Interview with Matthew Calarco – Thinking Like Animals

April 27 2022

Pablo Perez Castello

Matthew Calarco is a continental and animal philosopher who has lived veganism as a set of daily practices for over three decades. His work has decisively influenced the field of critical animal studies and animal philosophy, and inspired the work of many scholars in those fields. Calarco is a grounded philosopher in that he stresses the importance of being attentive to the ecologies of our neighbourhoods and towns, how we constitute and are constituted by these ecological relations, and the environment more generally. He has coined the term “indistinction,” which is a concept that seeks to open spaces where the lines between humans and the more than human world blur. He contends that indistinction should contribute to changing human-animal relationships, and enable more just ways to live with, relate to and be with others. In this interview, Calarco will discuss some of his most important and ground-breaking ideas: he challenges the argument that speciesism is a key axis to discriminate against animals, and argues that we should not be led to practice veganism by creating sacred sites in which humans and some animals appear as inedible, but rather think of human and non-human animals as being meaty, that is, edible and vulnerable embodied mortals. This interview happened through correspondence in the Summer of 2021. 

Pablo P. Castelló (PPC): Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you based and where were you raised? What was the political culture around you like? And how did you end up in the field of animal philosophy? 

Matthew Calarco (MC): I currently live in Aliso Viejo, California in the United States and teach philosophy at California State University, Fullerton. I was born and raised just down the road from here in Escondido. The city of Escondido was fairly conservative when I was growing up (and still is), and I attended Christian school up until middle school. So, I was surrounded for many years by strongly conservative people and institutions; oddly enough, though, those values and worldview never really appealed to me or formed me in any deep way. I became critical of religion at a fairly young age, and I always had a taste for the “outside”—by which I mean not just the outdoors (which I did love) but also alternative cultures, music, and ways of life. I was deeply immersed in hip hop culture and DJing all through my teen years and twenties, and my experiences in those circles were deeply formative for me. Even though I eventually left the music and DJing scene, the values and ideals of indie hip hop and related musical cultures remain important to me. 

In terms of animal philosophy and my interest in those topics, those things too began fairly early in my life. Before I entered high school, my family adopted a vegetarian diet largely for health reasons; but as we became more informed about animal issues, the commitment…

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