International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 529–554 | Cite as

The Most Wretched of Beings in the Cage of Capitalism

  • Daniel O. Sayers


We can no longer afford to ignore the horrendous misery and abuse that humans have inflicted on beings from other species throughout all modern history. We also cannot continue to ignore how those oppressive actions and processes dialectically reverberate across most social dimensions of our modern world. This essay is an effort to promote a heretofore seldom-considered social justice cause in historical archaeology: animal emancipation. I advocate an approach that challenges alienated anthropocentric views, ideologies, and practices in historical archaeology and the wider social and political-economic world. I also offer some ideas on how an archaeology of animal emancipation might appear and some suggestions on preliminary steps we can take to see such an archaeology emerge alongside and in conjuncton with other engaged archaeologies.


Animal emancipation Social justice Alienation Speciesism 



I wish to thank Vipra Ghimire for all the years of talking with me about this subject and for the amazing editorial assistance with this essay. Also, I wish to thank Jenny Grubbs for all the good conversations and sources about animal liberation; her doctoral research at American University on animal liberation activists is very significant to the movement. Thanks also to the group of University of Maryland and American University students who avidly read my earlier conference paper and have been so interested in the animal emancipation conversation and politic—particularly, Michael Roller and Justin Uehlein (now at American University as a doctoral student). Chuck Orser has my great appreciation for his inspiring willingness to work with me on developing this essay and seeing it to print. I am indebted to Bob Paynter and three anonymous reviewers who guided me towards making this essay as strong as it could be. I have been conceptualizing this essay since the late 1990s, and in 2003 I presented a paper on this topic at the Radical Archaeology Theory Symposium held at SUNY Binghamton. This essay is a continuation of my thinking on some of the core ideas presented in that 2003 paper, though I did venture in several new and different directions here. The ideas and arguments I present in the essay are my own and my responsibility—and they are extremely important to me.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA

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