On Campus | Alumni
Cary Wolfe, Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at Rice University
The Biopolitics of Animal Bodies
Cary Wolfe???s recent work brings two distinct genealogies into conversation???animal studies and biopolitics. Whereas animal studies has often worked in the register of ethics, biopolitics has tended to operate in the register of political theory. What kind of intellectual resources can biopolitical theory provide for thinking about issues of deep interest to animal studies?
To answer this question, Wolfe brings thinkers such as Foucault, Agamben, Butler, Derrida, Esposito, Lazzarato, and others to bear on institutions from the nineteenth century slaughterhouse, to the Fordist assembly line and Nazi death camp, to the modern factory farm. The practices of ???making live??? in Foucault???s words???through eugenics, artificial insemination, selective breeding, pharmaceutical enhancement, inoculation???are on display in the modern factory farm as almost nowhere else in biopolitical history. Such practices are part of a global biopolitical regulation of planetary life that deploys the secondary distinction between animal and human across species lines and in a huge array of specific regulatory regimes. Within this framework, animal management practices cannot be understood simply as an ethically embarrassing side-effect of modern life, easily managed through anticruelty regulations, but rather as constitutive of biopolitics in its modern form.
Wolfe???s work is notable for the way that it brings many concrete institutions and practices (from pet health insurance to antibiotic management and other public health strategies) into conversations with posthumanist and biopolitical philosophy.
Pearson Hall 128 [map], Oxford Campus [map] - Directions