Critically engaging with the identities of "man" and "animal"

Prof Jan-Harm de Villiers, Department of Jurisprudence, School of Law, College of Law

Prof Jan-Harm de Villiers from Unisa’s Department of Jurisprudence, School of Law, was awarded the 2020 Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Research. He holds a multidisciplinary PhD in Law and Philosophy from the prestigious Leiden University in the Netherlands, which is ranked among the top 25 law schools in the world, and his research has been published in top international and national journals.

De Villiers’s research falls within the broad field of animal ethics and involves critical theory, literary theory, Continental philosophy and jurisprudence. His project uncovers anthropocentrism as a guiding thread of the Western metaphysical tradition, and illustrates how the constructs of philosophical and legal subjectivity born from that tradition foreclose or limit certain ethical possibilities, specifically in relation to animals.

According to De Villiers, the subjugated status of the animal is the result of complex schemata of power and domination that span numerous historical, institutional, and cultural discourses and practices. He consequently calls for a critical engagement with the sociohistorical processes, relations and conditions that configure the identities of "man" and "animal", and ultimately foregrounds the challenges accompanying the utilisation of law in service of animal liberation.

"I am grateful to receive this award that recognises my scholarly contributions. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the selection committee for this honour, and to everyone who has contributed to my development as a scholar. In particular, I would like to recognise Prof Karin van Marle and Prof Drucilla Cornell for their guidance, support and friendship."

* By Ngwako Mokgotho, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Law

Publish date: 2021/08/27