To read this content please select one of the options below:

What is the opposite of speciesism? On relational care ethics and illustrating multi-species-isms

Michelle Westerlaken (School of Arts and Communication (K3), Malmö University, Malmo, Sweden)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 6 July 2020

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021




This paper articulates a counter-concept to the notion of speciesism with the aim to encourage thinking beyond critique, towards imagining what non-speciesist worlds can actually look like.


By using the concept of “multi-species-isms” (or “multispecies”, as a simpler adjective), and linking it to feminist and relational ethics of “care”, the paper seeks to unite perspectives from both Critical Animal Studies as well as feminist, posthumanist theories. Already existing traces of multi-species-isms that exemplify different forms of multispecies care are visualised through annotated illustrations that accompany the text. These traces offer a cue for negotiating multispecies worlds without attempting to define their content in all too definite forms.


Rather than focusing on critiquing oppressive structures, the paper contributes narratives of multispecies worlds that inspire further imagination towards the positive ingredients of such worlds and show more concretely how multispecies care is practised in everyday life.

Social implications

These insights frame a starting point for a repertoire that shows the numerous ways in which multispecies relationships between humans and other animals are already given form.


By articulating the actual ingredients of multi-species-isms, rather than focusing on what they are not, the paper seeks to advance a move towards adding multispecies possibilities that can be especially helpful for those researchers, designers and activists concerned with imagining alternative futures.



Westerlaken, M. (2021), "What is the opposite of speciesism? On relational care ethics and illustrating multi-species-isms", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 41 No. 3/4, pp. 522-540.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles