(Body07)
Animals' matter: anthropological conceptions of animal bodies as material
Location Magdalen Daubeny
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2018 at 14:15
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Julien Dugnoille (University of Exeter) email
  • Elizabeth Vander Meer (University of Exeter) email
  • Eimear Mc Loughlin (University of Exeter) email

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Short abstract

This panel explores (1) the ways humans control animals as material before life, (2) how through intersubjectivity, other animals can communicate vulnerability and resistance, and (3) how anthropologists, through embodied action and experience, can imagine themselves into the lives of other animals.

Long abstract

This panel identifies with the 'creative bodies' cluster. Nonhuman animal matter is commoditised by human populations across the globe. From the bushmeat trade to zootherapeutic practices, from fashionable clothing to the scientific advances of trans-species organ-transplant, humans and institutions commoditise and consume other animal bodies with varying degrees of violence and, still too often, lack of moral concern for the increasing and compelling evidence of nonhuman sentience and complex consciousness. 

However, in the wake of Anthropology's animal turn which promotes the rethinking of human sociality in terms of more-than-human intersubjectivity, many anthropologists, sometimes alongside their participants, strive to explore how other animal bodies can be conceived as sites for the production of inequality and alterity. Thus, not only will this panel explore ethnographic examples where nonhuman animal lives are reduced by human cultures and social institutions to the status of functional/dysfunctional material, it will also show how anthropologists increasingly think of animal bodies as sites where they can witness expressions of vulnerability and resistance in other animals against their commodification. Further, this panel will place the onus on answering accusations of 'sentimentality' directed at anthropologists concerned with human-animal interactions and animal welfare.

Paper proposals should explore the ways human-nonhuman relations are affecting bodies, and could include, but are not limited to, the slaughter of animals in large-killing plants, the control of bodies in zoos and circuses, the violence of zootherapeutic remedies or clothes, animal testing in biomedical research, or the control of animal reproduction.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Save time, save money ...grow profitable deer!" - breedwealth and deer

Author: Christopher Ward (University of Nottingham) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the breeding of deer to achieve certain perfected deer bodies, and what role such practices has had in the creation of new ideals and marketable assets.

Long abstract

This paper will investigate the ideals and conceptions of deer breeds, which whilst present since the 17th century, has become particularly evident with the recent rapid commercialisation of the venison trade. Deer are bought and sold, and particularly stags are offered as "studs" to further spread sought features in a herd. Here the formation of the deer's body presents certain sought ideals for certain sought outcomes; and deer are apparently tailored through breeding to cater to specific demands. As such, the individual deer comes to stand in place of the herd in a representation of qualities to be introduced.

Even within wild deer management and conservation, ideals of a herd's breed or morphology seem to transcend the conceptions of species. In the practices of deer managers an unusual interplay with the ideals of breeds and the conception of wildness becomes embodied in their herds. Following the theory of "breedwealth" (Franklin 1997; 2007), where value is placed upon the practice rather than the outcome, I will argue that the very practices and processes of herd management appear to be valued above the actual outcome of the breeding-practices upon the herd.

Furthermore, with many deer farms now springing up around Europe, how does the treatment of deer as property have for not only legislation and practices, but also for accepted views of domestication, wildness and interspecies interactions? Are deer farmers adapting agricultural methods, or are they exploiting the biological, behavioural and landscape potential of the deer?

Disappearing lions? Wild animals in circus performance, apparatuses and attunement

Author: Elizabeth Vander Meer email
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Short abstract

This paper explores ways in which individual lions disappear or become visible within the entertainment spectacle of a French circus, considering apparatuses, the idea of "actuals" in performance theory and expressions of vulnerability and resistance.

Long abstract

"Wild" animals in circuses are objects of or material for performance, working animals shaped by but also shaping apparatuses that contain them. Apparatus theory as described in performance studies would consider how animals are made to perform, through what physical tools and training, as well as how they are made to mean in performances; such an approach aligns with elements of Foucault's notion of an apparatus and microsites of power. This paper will explore ways in which individual lions disappear or become visible within circus entertainment culture that transforms animals into lively commodities. Based on my multi-sited, multi-species ethnography following the lives of four lions seized from a French travelling circus, I consider how narratives in circus performances can obscure individuality, so that wild animals become symbols within the spectacle of storytelling around risk and control of bodies. At the same time, these animals could be conceived of as performing "actuals", non-mimetic and "performing themselves", much like assertions about circus aerialists and acrobats; the physical trick that is being performed, the individual animal's ability to complete it successfully, is paramount. Wild animals become increasingly visible as individuals within roles in performance when their bodily movements and gestures are seen to express vulnerability in, and also resistance to, performing an act. My approach contributes to understandings of what performance may mean for individual animals, drawing from performance theory infused with Merleau-Pontian phenomenology and Foucauldian notions of biopower, to move towards attunement with these animal performers when interpreting contexts and behaviours.

Knowing cows: transformative mobilizations of human and non‐human bodies in an emotionography of the slaughterhouse

Author: Eimear Mc Loughlin (University of Exeter) email
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Short abstract

The paper will explore the complex emotions that emerge in the killing of cattle in an industrial slaughterhouse. These emotions complicate the commodification of bovine bodies as workers recognize the individuality of, while simultaneously objectifying, the cattle in their care.

Long abstract

This 'emotionography' of the slaughterhouse elucidates how the identities of both human and non‐human individuals are constructed by line and lairage workers. Hegemonic masculine ideals that underpin slaughterhouse work mean that the emotions of workers as well as the emotional experience of cattle are either denied, diminished or repressed. Based on fieldwork in an Irish slaughterhouse, I articulate how the industrial slaughter of animals entangles human and non‐human life in metamorphic processes that seek to diminish the emotionality of individuals, maintaining the boundary between human/non‐human animals. The transformation of cows to commodities and humans to ideal slaughter workers is an uneasy and incomplete process that requires daily maintenance in the slaughterhouse. These transformations simultaneously pacify the emotional toll of killing non‐human individuals and reinforce perceptions of cows as sellable, killable and edible in the commodification of bovine bodies. Amidst the relative absence of emotions in slaughterhouse ethnographies, this paper reveals how emotions emerge, erupt and confound the act of slaughtering cattle for slaughterhouse workers unsettling categorizations of masculinity and 'animals as food'.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.