By Nicole Shukin
The juxtaposition of biopolitical critique and animal studies—two matters seldom theorized together—signals the double-edged intervention of Animal Capital. Nicole Shukin pursues a resolutely materialist engagement with the “question of the animal,” hard the philosophical idealism that has dogged the query by means of tracing how the politics of capital and of animal existence impinge upon each other in industry cultures of the 20th and early twenty-first centuries.
Shukin argues that an research of capital’s incarnations in animal figures and flesh is pivotal to extending the exam of biopower past its results on people. “Rendering” refers at the same time to cultural applied sciences and economies of mimesis and to the carnal company of boiling down and recycling animal continues to be. Rendering’s lodging of those discrepant logics, she contends, indicates a rubric for the serious activity of monitoring the biopolitical stipulations and contradictions of animal capital around the areas of tradition and economy.
From the animal capital of abattoirs and vehicles, movies and cell phones, to pandemic worry of species-leaping ailments equivalent to avian influenza and mad cow, Shukin makes startling linkages among visceral and digital currencies in animal existence, illuminating entanglements of species, race, and hard work within the stipulations of capitalism. In reckoning with the violent histories and intensifying contradictions of animal rendering, Animal Capital increases provocative and urgent questions about the cultural politics of nature.
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Additional resources for Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Posthumanities)
Later chapters elaborate the double sense of rendering in the more affective terms of “sympathetic” and “pathological” economies of power. 68 Taussig recalls James George Frazer’s anthropological study of sympathetic magic in The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion (1911), where Frazer describes, among other things, how sorcerers of Jervis Island in the South Paciﬁc Ocean manipulate efﬁgies in order to affect the subjects they resemble. As Taussig relates, “If the sorcerer pulled an arm or a leg off the image, the human victim felt pain in the corresponding limb, but if the sorcerer restored the severed arm or leg to the efﬁgy, the human victim recovered” (49).
Laclau and Mouffe’s theorization of articulation remains one of the most compelling contemporary efforts to think contingency. ”84 In contrast to identity politics, which spawn the sense that subjects are pre-given to representation, “politico-hegemonic articulations” acknowledge that they “retroactively create the interests they claim to represent” (xi). Laclau and Mouffe begin from the antiessentialist premise that social identities do not preexist their social articulations. [ 28 ] INTRODUCTION The problem with dialectical thinking, in their view, is that it has historically sought to reduce social life to one essential, underlying logic (for Hegel, the historical unfolding of Spirit, for Marx, class consciousness as the motor of material history) and to reconcile antagonistic social elements within the telos of a uniﬁed social whole.
72 Rendering As Critical Practice: Discourse Analysis, Distortion, Articulation Biological and genetic “stock” rendered from animals materially and speculatively circulates as capital even as animals appreciate in value as metaphors and brands mediating new technologies, commodities, and markets. Yet the market’s double stock in animal life has persistently eluded politicization, possibly because so much is at stake. For the biopolitical interpenetrations with substances and signs of animal life that help to secure capitalism’s economic and cultural hegemony also betray its profound contingency on nonhuman nature.