Accepted Paper:

(Infra)corporeal labour in Czech organic milk production  


Lucie Žeková (Charles University Prague)

Paper short abstract:

Following Donna Haraway’s notion of companion species, Annemarie Mol’s multiple realities and Eduardo Kohn’s concept of semiotic lives I assume labour is performed not only by humans, animals and technologies, but also by their parts and shared infracorporeal entanglements.

Paper long abstract:

So far, labour has been perceived as a kind of activity performed mainly by people, some admitted that also technologies and animals may perform labour (although it remained unpaid). As an anthropologist trained in STS and ANT, I would like to introduce an organic dairy cow as a hardworking agent who (un)intentionally contributes to milk production. Organic cows are treated and recognised as individuals also on huge organic farms. These individuals perform their likes and dislikes, organise their time and cooperate with people. Their capability to cooperate with other cows, technologies and people depends on the shared trans species knowledge of the cow shed rules. Following Eduardo Kohn, who says that life is always semiotic, I think of the cow-people cooperation as of a result of time and place specific culture based on knowledge shared by cows and people. But there are also bodies and sensory capabilities of cows and people. Both not only need to be socialised into the specific cowshed culture to be able to collaborate effectively. Milk production is crucially dependent on their infracorporeality, on specific knowledge of the others' bodies.

Panel T159
Political Objects. Prescriptions, Injustices and Promises of Material Agents