LSA 2021: Samantha King

Of Companionship, Curfews, and Conflict: Multispecies Leisure and Struggles for Justice in the Age of COVID

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the deep interconnectedness of human and animal worlds.

From public health policies designed to regulate outdoor exercise for canines and their companions to the booming market in “pandemic puppies” and “COVID kittens,” multispecies leisure has featured prominently in discourse on the virus. A parallel conversation has highlighted how racial capitalism converges with a microscopic particle to determine who lives (well) and who dies in the pandemic and beyond. In this talk, I think through these discourses together. My sites of analysis include the infamous Central Park incident in which a white dogwalker called the police on a black birdwatcher after he asked her to restrain her companion, and the less well-known case of the unidentified Quebec women fined for walking her husband on a leash as a way to circumvent curfew laws. My goal is twofold: to explore how the regulation and experience of multispecies leisure not only reflects but actively shapes infrastructures and experiences of race, class, and sex; and to consider the place of more-than-human leisure in the struggle for (post)pandemic justice.

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