Sanctuary Politics and the Borders of the Demos: A Comparison of Human and Nonhuman Animal Sanctuaries


  • Eva Meijer Wageningen University & Research



Animal Sanctuary, City of Sanctuary, Expanded Sanctuary, Interspecies Relations, Political Animal Philosophy, Political Philosophy


Sanctuary traditionally meant something different for humans and nonhuman animals, but this is changing. Animals are increasingly seen as subjects, and, similar to human sanctuaries, animal sanctuaries are increasingly understood as political spaces. In this article I compare human and nonhuman sanctuaries in order to bring into focus under- lying patterns of political inclusion and exclusion. By investigating parallels and differ- ences I also aim to shed light on the role of sanctuaries in thinking about and working towards new forms of community and democratic interaction, focusing specifically on the role of political agency and voice.

I begin by briefly discussing the political turn in animal philosophy, in which nonhuman animals are conceptualized as political actors. I then discuss ‘Zatopia’, a thought experiment that shows that viewing sanctuaries as separate from larger political structures runs the risk of repeating violence, and I investigate parallels with certain practices and policies in farmed animal sanctuaries. In order to overcome the obstacles thus identified, I turn to the concept ‘expanded sanctuary’, which explicitly focuses on connections between sanctuary and larger political structures. I discuss two examples of expanded sanctuary in which the agency and voices of those seeking or taking sanctuary are foregrounded: VINE Sanctuary, and the Dutch migrant collective WE ARE HERE. In the final section I briefly touch upon the consequences of these con- siderations for our understanding of sanctuary in relation to political membership and reforming communities.

Author Biography

Eva Meijer, Wageningen University & Research

Eva Meijer is a philosopher and writer. Meijer works as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam (NL), on the four-year research project The politics of (not) eating animals, supported by a Veni grant from the Dutch Research Council, and as a postdoctoral researcher in the project Anthropocene ethics: Taking animal agency seriously at Wageningen University and Research (NL). She is the chair of the Dutch study group for Animal Philosophy. Recent publications include When animals speak. Toward an Interspecies Democracy (New York University Press 2019), Animal Languages (John Murray 2019) and The Limits of my Language (Pushkin Press 2021). Meijer wrote twelve books, fiction and non-fiction, and her work has been translated into eighteen languages. More information can be found on her website: 



How to Cite

Meijer, Eva. 2021. “Sanctuary Politics and the Borders of the Demos: A Comparison of Human and Nonhuman Animal Sanctuaries”. Krisis | Journal for Contemporary Philosophy 41 (2):35-48.