Covid-19 originates with humans’ instrumentalization of other animals, an “inconvenient truth” elided by scientists procuring a vaccine while refusing to contend with the captivity, slaughter and encroachment on wild animals’ habitats that brought the fatal disease upon us. The interlocking of homo sapiens’ and other species’ suffering is, of course, glaringly evidenced by disproportionate Black and brown death due to Covid-19 worldwide, itself intensifying the foundational pandemic of anti-Black violence.
“Akbar, My Heart” contemplates transpecies loss in a relational frame, attending to the entanglement of white supremacy with anthropocentrism at the same time that I reflect on caregiving for my canine companion, Akbar, during his decline from neurological disease. My elderly friend’s worsening symptoms coincided with the pandemic’s spread, the Summer’s uproar against anti-Black violence and California’s wildfires.
The vortex of these events is a point of departure for meditating about carceral logic, animalization and the seeming “end of days” together with another kind of ending, one centered on providing comfort and an honorable death. Mourning for Akbar through the preparation of this piece, I have called upon the wisdom of critical animal studies scholars as well as Sufi poets and even the texts of my dreams. Deciphering this bewildering time of transformation has been an invitation to imagine another world while abiding with Akbar in the threshold, attempting to see through the smoke, so to speak, to the other side of this scorched earth.
Recommended CitationIsfahani-Hammond, Alexandra, Akbar, My Heart: Caregiving for a Dog During Covid-19, Animal Studies Journal, 10(1), 2021, 11-29.