No Collar, No Master: discussion of a paper by Nadia Farage

From 2nd December a seminar begins on our latest OAC paper; Nadia Farage's No Collar, No Master. As usual all are welcome to join the debate: the space below will be open for comment from 2nd December onwards.

With Nadia's paper we enter new territory at the OAC - a finely grained study of the place of animals in Rio de Janeiro during the early Twentieth Century. There is, of course, a growing literature on 'human-animal' relations, but I think readers will be in for some surprises when they discover how government agencies tried to control animals during this period in Brazilian history. Plenty of food for thought. Enjoy and feel free to comment too.

Picture: Loukanikos the anarchist dog (Time Magazine's 'Person of the Year', 2011)

From_cattlecamp_to_slaughterhouse.doc

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Welcome, Nadia. Huon will formally launch the seminar tomorrow. Now is the time for the rest of us to read the essay, if we haven't already.

Thank you, Keith, for your warm welcome. I look forward our discussion. 


Keith Hart said:

Welcome, Nadia. Huon will formally launch the seminar tomorrow. Now is the time for the rest of us to read the essay, if we haven't already.

Nadia, Welcome indeed. It was a great pleasure to read your paper in part because it reminds us once again that animals co-dwell with humans in every human environment. Every student of anthropolology, at some point, reading the Nuer suddenly receives a shock when Evans-Pritchard insists that the Nuer relation to animals is symbiotic, but you bring that insight home in a fascinating way - the urban environments most of us live in were once full of animals and these animals have been gradually (sometimes abruptly) removed from view; to the extent that their role in reproducing city life has almost disappeared. In many cities the dogs remain - for me the signature sound of Kingston, Jamaica where I have worked for many years is the barking of guard dogs. What I think is very distinctive about your paper, though, is how you show the linkage between the treatment of animals and the treatment of people as a political project. Not only did bureaucracies learn to control animals and people simultaneously, the people themselves developed their political projects in the company of animals - until finally the animals in their plenitude and variety began to disappear from cities - leaving only the 'pets' and guard dogs behind. 

So, it would be interesting to hear you comment on how you might connect this to the anthropological tradition and also to comment on why animals (despite all this talk of 'ontology' and 'actor networks') seem not to appear in anthropological accounts except as symbols. Finally, perhaps what would help would be a sketch of how, having worked with the Wapishana in Guyana, your interest has changed somewhat to the animals in the urban setting. I hope I have not missed something very obvious, but this is only an 'opener'...

 

Nádia, All,

    As Huon notes, your essay is a distinctive, if depressing, account of how an emerging municipal bureaucracy re-defined the status of both animals and humans within the new polity.  As animals were evicted from public and domestic space, it would be interesting to know more about new measures of social control directed specifically at the human population.  As a government creates more and more laws, it creates more and more criminals.  What was done with them?  Did the local system of incarceration undergo a similar transformation – one, quite likely, that emphasized an increased polarization between an expanding class of “criminals” and law-abiding “citizens,” paralleling a similarly increased polarization between animals that belonged and those that didn’t?  Were new penal institutions created to house members of the criminal class? 

    I wonder if the Brazilian experience resembles what has occurred in the United States.  The American experience, however, has typically taken an unhappy social arrangement, like that of early twentieth-century Rio, and made it more extreme and much worse.  Here typical farm animals like cows, pigs, and chickens are not only expelled from municipalities and assigned to rural areas, but those rural areas themselves (the bucolic image of the family farm) are depopulated of livestock by an immense, centralized animal processing industry.  Increasingly, there are no more farm animals, only units of protein production.  Three or four mega-corporations are now responsible for producing some ninety per cent of animal products that arrive, neatly packaged in cellophane wrap and styrofoam, at the local supermarket.  Their journey from the animal ghettos of feedlot and egg factory to that cellophane wrapper is through a chamber of horrors carefully shielded from public view.  On this subject, let me recommend a 2007 work by Gail Eisnitz, available with lots of free pages on Amazon: 

The Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U. S. Meat Industry     

I know, quite a sensationalist title, but it does not understate the book’s contents.

    The human population of the U. S. has experienced a parallel development in the definition and treatment of those who don’t belong, those who require punishment.  With millions of Americans having experienced arrest and incarceration, the homespun institution of the local jail disgorges its contents into state penitentiaries and, for many, federal prisons.  Note the ominous semantic drift involved:  The penitentiary, a place where sinners are sent to reflect on their sins and pray for salvation, has become the prison, where criminals are sent to experience a lingering death of decades or a lifetime of incarceration.  Today’s “super-max” prisons are the human – if one can use that word here – equivalent of the slaughterhouses described by Eisnitz. 

    So, turn-of-the-century Rio might be regarded as a foreboding of things to come. 

 

Huon's questions are very interesting. I will hold my own until Nadia has a chance to answer these first. Here I would like only to suggest a point neglected by an analysis that focuses exclusively on the symbolism or rhetoric that, in an altogether familiar way on both sides, equates the poor with animals. 

When I was very much younger than I am now, my father was furloughed by the shipyard in which he spent his working life. That I hardly noticed the difference in our family circumstances was due to the fact that our home was on land facing a creek (a salt water inlet) that led out to Chesapeake Bay. The creek supplied us with crabs, oysters and fish. The place was big enough for a large garden, and for much of the winter we ate home grown corn and green peas from the freezer, or the canned tomatoes, green beans,  beets and pickles, all put up by my mother, that lined the shelves in the dining room. Chickens and ducks provided meat and eggs. Selling off trees from the woods that were also part of the property provided supplementary income. Reading what happened in Rio de Janeiro I cannot help reflecting that expelling domestic animals from the city had a direct effect on the economic vulnerability of its citizens. Without those cows, chickens, and pigs, and other animals (I imagine goats), the poor were left with nothing to eat but what their limited cash could buy, thoroughly snared in a cash economy with no alternative to earn or starve. 

Raking through my memory for an anthropological inspiration for this observation, I discover Michael Taussig's The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America.

Thank you all for your attentive reading and comments.

I will start with the reasons why, after years of ethnographical work in Guiana, I came to study libertarian naturism and workers’ struggles for animal life at the beginning of the 20th century. Anti-vivisection activism and two books led me to the issue.  I will not bother you with the personal experience that caused me to oppose vivisection, but I must observe that for sometime I tried to keep apart my work and activism. However, I had to acknowledge that my work was always fueled by passion, and I became as passionately involved with the struggle for animal rights, as I had been a decade earlier with the struggle for indigenous rights in Brazil. In the same period, I came across the books. One was the memoires of Zelia Gattai (Jorge Amado’s wife) about her Italian anarchist family - which had an ironic title, Anarquistas, graças a Deus (anarchists, by the grace of God) -  where she related that every time the family dog was taken by the municipal cart to the dog pound, her mother crossed São Paulo by tram to release him, because she was against death penalty. This is not a trivial notion, but of course difficult to grasp with our contemporary reasoning.

The second book was the selected work of Lima Barreto, that I bought only because I have always had high regard for his literature. Most of us Brazilians appreciate Lima Barreto’s political criticism of the first years of the Republic; few of us are aware of his libertarian links. Re-reading his work, I was struck by the quantity of references, in chronicle and fiction, to the animal condition. Then it made sense to me that classical anarchism had a political stance on animality, which I decided to investigate.  Lima Barreto’s work was the main guide to the unsettling days of the urban reforms in Rio de Janeiro.

How do I reconcile this with the anthropological tradition? It depends on what anthropological tradition we are talking about. From my point of view, Lévi-Strauss’ structural anthropology was the only post-war thought able to keep the idea of man as “a species among species”, but this was, for a long time, discarded as a troublesome naturalism amidst our culturalist intellectual ambiance.

Huon reminds us of the symbiotic relationship of the Nuer with their cattle (which is never emphasized by teachers, except as a metaphor of social relationships), but what really astonishes me is that, for decades, what we have been teaching as the model ethnographical encounter is C.Geertz fraternizing with devotees of cock-fighting, with no consideration for the fact that if they had to run from the police, it is very probable that cock-fighting was illegal, a prohibition that is as much a part of the cultural system as the cock fighting itself - not to mention the agony of the cocks. Animals, indeed, are a crucial experiment for relativism.

An anthropology defensive of man’s privileges is said to be the offspring of the Enlightment and the French Revolution. I prefer to see more nuánces, since the Enlightment was also that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the French Revolution was also the soil for British romantic radicalism, which really brought animals to the barricades against industrialism.  

Is it really possible to build interspecific ethnographies without decentering human kind? Is it enough or politically hopeful to read all sentient life – human and non-human –  under the aegis of the machine? I consider that we are very far from a proper interspecific ethnography, though its definition is a good signal that things have been changing in the two last decades. Human sciences have been forced to think of the animal, by an ascendant global animal rights/animal liberation movement – one that fights precisely for the animal as a subject of rights -  to which Philosophy and History responded earlier and better than Anthropology.

Historiography, in most of cases, follows E.P.Thompson in taking animals as signs in the class struggle (Marxist reluctance to see animals as more than a material resource is part of our problem too). Nevertheless, Anglo-saxon historians have done much within the theme of animality in industrial contexts. Historians have shown that, until the 1930’s, there were very different sensibilities towards animals; most important of all, they show that concepts we take today for granted since the cartesian animal-machine, were only fully in force in post-WWII times.

The touchstone, as Lee Drummond very properly points out, was the commoditisation of the animal, a process which only the industrial line of production of animals consolidated fully in the 50’s (It was not only in the US, but a widespread industrial phenomenon. Thank you, Lee, for the reference. I will look for the book by Eisnitz). However, as K.Thomas and other historians demonstrate, this process had a necessary precedent in the purge of urban areas, which broke up animals’ social ties and made their lives and death invisible to urban consumers.

Yes, my first point is that the process of commoditisation of life targets not only animals, but also workers, specially the lumpen. They were all disposable and wasted lives, to use Baummann’s expression. Brazilian historiography has built a sound body of work about the expulsion of workers from central areas of Rio de Janeiro during the period of urban reforms. I have not studied the prison system, but I can tell you that deportation to “no man’s land” – in our case, Amazonia – was a punishment in use until the 1920’s. As a counterpart, the first victim of the electric chair in the US was a dog.

My second and main point is that workers, anarchists especially, and even more so naturists (who were a minor tendency inside anarchism) were aware of this symbolic equation and turned it into a positive link of solidarity towards animals. The Brazilian case is just one piece in the jigsaw, as it was a global movement in the period: Tolstoism in Russia; naturist communities in North Europe and South America; anti-vivisection riots in London in 1907; Emma Goldmann publishing Mother Earth in the US... So, as we know, it was not only the republican idea that was defeated by the combined efforts of stalinists and fascists in the Spanish Civil War, but a much larger existential-political project.



Lee Drummond said:

 

Nádia, All,

    As Huon notes, your essay is a distinctive, if depressing, account of how an emerging municipal bureaucracy re-defined the status of both animals and humans within the new polity.  As animals were evicted from public and domestic space, it would be interesting to know more about new measures of social control directed specifically at the human population.  As a government creates more and more laws, it creates more and more criminals.  What was done with them?  Did the local system of incarceration undergo a similar transformation – one, quite likely, that emphasized an increased polarization between an expanding class of “criminals” and law-abiding “citizens,” paralleling a similarly increased polarization between animals that belonged and those that didn’t?  Were new penal institutions created to house members of the criminal class? 

    I wonder if the Brazilian experience resembles what has occurred in the United States.  The American experience, however, has typically taken an unhappy social arrangement, like that of early twentieth-century Rio, and made it more extreme and much worse.  Here typical farm animals like cows, pigs, and chickens are not only expelled from municipalities and assigned to rural areas, but those rural areas themselves (the bucolic image of the family farm) are depopulated of livestock by an immense, centralized animal processing industry.  Increasingly, there are no more farm animals, only units of protein production.  Three or four mega-corporations are now responsible for producing some ninety per cent of animal products that arrive, neatly packaged in cellophane wrap and styrofoam, at the local supermarket.  Their journey from the animal ghettos of feedlot and egg factory to that cellophane wrapper is through a chamber of horrors carefully shielded from public view.  On this subject, let me recommend a 2007 work by Gail Eisnitz, available with lots of free pages on Amazon: 

The Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U. S. Meat Industry     

I know, quite a sensationalist title, but it does not understate the book’s contents.

    The human population of the U. S. has experienced a parallel development in the definition and treatment of those who don’t belong, those who require punishment.  With millions of Americans having experienced arrest and incarceration, the homespun institution of the local jail disgorges its contents into state penitentiaries and, for many, federal prisons.  Note the ominous semantic drift involved:  The penitentiary, a place where sinners are sent to reflect on their sins and pray for salvation, has become the prison, where criminals are sent to experience a lingering death of decades or a lifetime of incarceration.  Today’s “super-max” prisons are the human – if one can use that word here – equivalent of the slaughterhouses described by Eisnitz. 

    So, turn-of-the-century Rio might be regarded as a foreboding of things to come. 

 

Thank you, John, for your preliminary comment. Of course, the expelling of animals from urban space hit the conditions of domestic production of livestock, in favor of a cash economy. However, workers did not need to release dogs or support lab animals, if it were only to defend their own material circumstances.

Taussig’s work on the cultural evaluation of commodity is a great reference, but the animal-commodity, from my point of view, raises a supplementary set of problems, faced much more in literature than in anthropological writing, since J.Swift’s Modest Proposal to eat Irish babies to Upton Sinclair’s description of the conditions of Chicago’s slaughter industry – a hell for man and animal alike.

Further, I wish to stress that I target the political action of libertarian and naturist workers – most of them coach drivers – for whom animal liberation was not only a figure of discourse, as they really fought against the exploitation of animal labour and the consumption of their bodies, as part of a generalised struggle against all exploitation of labour and bodies.

John McCreery said:

Huon's questions are very interesting. I will hold my own until Nadia has a chance to answer these first. Here I would like only to suggest a point neglected by an analysis that focuses exclusively on the symbolism or rhetoric that, in an altogether familiar way on both sides, equates the poor with animals. 

When I was very much younger than I am now, my father was furloughed by the shipyard in which he spent his working life. That I hardly noticed the difference in our family circumstances was due to the fact that our home was on land facing a creek (a salt water inlet) that led out to Chesapeake Bay. The creek supplied us with crabs, oysters and fish. The place was big enough for a large garden, and for much of the winter we ate home grown corn and green peas from the freezer, or the canned tomatoes, green beans,  beets and pickles, all put up by my mother, that lined the shelves in the dining room. Chickens and ducks provided meat and eggs. Selling off trees from the woods that were also part of the property provided supplementary income. Reading what happened in Rio de Janeiro I cannot help reflecting that expelling domestic animals from the city had a direct effect on the economic vulnerability of its citizens. Without those cows, chickens, and pigs, and other animals (I imagine goats), the poor were left with nothing to eat but what their limited cash could buy, thoroughly snared in a cash economy with no alternative to earn or starve. 

Raking through my memory for an anthropological inspiration for this observation, I discover Michael Taussig's The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America.

Nádia Farage said:

I tried to keep apart my work and activism. However, I had to acknowledge that my work was always fueled by passion, and I became as passionately involved with the struggle for animal rights, as I had been a decade earlier with the struggle for indigenous rights in Brazil.

 

How do I reconcile this with the anthropological tradition?

 

It was not only the republican idea that was defeated by the combined efforts of stalinists and fascists in the Spanish Civil War, but a much larger existential-political project.


Thank you, Nadia, for your serious, lucid and imaginative responses to our comments and questions. I have excerpted the above from your first reply to flag issues that I hope to return to in more detail. Briefly, the first evokes for me Marcel Mauss who maintained a Chinese wall between his academic and political engagements (and perhaps his sexuality too), with the consequence that generations of Anglophone anthropologists have missed the point of The Gift. Rather than teach dead texts, I prefer to provide background on the lives and social context of their writers and the political purposes they brought to the task. Certainly, anthropologists have been particularly coy about making public their own political engagements, if any. Perhaps their foothold in public institutions always felt precarious or it could be that they joined in order to escape from world history rather than make it. On your final statement, if the fall of the Soviet Union made the Russian revolution living history again, perhaps the analogy between the economic crisis today and the 1930s gives added salience to the losing side in the Spanish civil war. If we include the Italian autonomists, anarchism does seem to be enjoying a revival, not least through David Graeber's public success and the New York publishing cell around Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis.

 

But the main point of this post is to introduce an extraordinary case of modern migration that came to my attention when I was asked to review a manuscript for publication a decade ago. I thought it was sensational, but unfortunately it does not seem to have made it into print. I have posted the review, mainly for its summary of the incredible story, under the photo in Huon's introduction to the seminar (it isn't possible to attach a text to a comment).

Carol Ann Berger was a reporter for the BBC World Service in Southern Sudan when the civil war broke out again in the early 1980s. Later she came across some Sudanese refugees in her native Alberta and wrote a masters thesis in anthropology about them at the University of Alberta in 2001: From Cattle Camp to Slaughterhouse: the politics of identity among Cuban-educated Dinka refugees to Canada. It is a dramatic and poignant story of human-animal relations which bridges the world of traditional Nuer/Dinka ethnography and the biopolitics of contemporary societies.

In the mid-80s, Fidel Castro shipped over 600 children of leading figures in the rebel SPLA to Cuba. There they were trained as the vanguard of socialist revolution in Africa on an island that had been a penal colony and performed agricultural labour without pay for their keep. As young adults, the Sudanese had become Spanish-speakers with an emotional attachment to Cuba when the Canadian government resettled 200 of them in the western province of Alberta which has a large Sudanese migrant community. The 'Cubans' did not get on with the other Sudanese because they were not traditional enough and they suffered racial discrimination from white rednecks. Employment was hard to find, but some of them found it working nights in a slaughterhouse, Lakeside Packers, in Southern Alberta. This is the fourth largest meat-processing plant in the world. The choice of jobs available was either cutting up cow flesh while staying warm or handling frozen meat at joint-numbing temperatures. It is hard to imagine more alienating work for people brought up with animals as African children in the style documented by E-P and Godfrey Lienhardt.

I had never heard of this story before and I am pretty sure this remains the case for most people. I recalled it when I read your paper, Nadia, and even more when I learned about your passion for animal activism. The brutality is present at every stage of this narrative. Human beings, animals, it's hard to know where to start.

 

 

The brutality is present at every stage of this narrative. Human beings, animals, it's hard to know where to start.

And so....

What must be done?

Pondering these questions draws me back to the issue I raised before the seminar began. We encounter a familiar narrative frame: The villains are the bourgoise modernisers. The victims are the poor, to whom we now add the animals, seeing both as emblematic of life and nature crushed by the machine. Here the plot has a twist: All the poor can do, apart from the occasional riot,  is dream of being masterless dogs. 

But what do we do with this tale if we are neither Brazilian, with an interest in local history, nor animal rights activists, already committed to a cause that frames our retrospective understanding? 

To remark that masterless dogs form feral packs or, as the idiom "fighting like junkyard dogs" suggests, wind up living in a state of nature that is more Hobbes than Rousseau, doesn't, on the face of it, seem very productive. Ditto for recalling that infamous park in the pre-Revolution International Settlement in Shanghai, the one with the sign, "No Chinese or dogs allowed."

On the one hand, I ask again, were yellow fever and plague eradicated? Their incidence reduced? Only in the "modernised" parts of the city? Were the villains in the piece purely villains? Or is there something to be said for what they were trying to achieve? 

On the other, I wonder what anthropology can add to the story, to make it more than yet another example of the endless stream of brutality to which Keith refers? Do theoretical framings like Lee Drummond's Animal/Machine, Life/Death, Us/Them or Philippe Descola's four ontologies—Animism, Naturalism, Totemism, Analogism—suggest fresh angles from which to make the description richer, the analysis deeper, and the final story more compelling? 

Thank you, Keith, for your inspiring comments. First, about activism: the Brazilian – and I dare say, Latin-American – situation is different from yours, I suppose. We all learned that our discipline is an intellectual combat against racism, sexism and other prejudices, but in our contexts this trend gains stronger colours. Brazilian ethnology and ethnohistory have had a crucial role in the struggle for land and political rights of indigenous peoples. I am proud I gave my share. However, as you see, when we talk about activism for animal rights, it opens a door to criticism like John’s remark about “ animal activists, already committed to a cause that frames our retrospective understanding”.  Who does not have a cause that frames one’s understanding? I suspect few would now dare to say what John said if gender or race were at stake.

In this sense, it is a matter of legitimacy, for which all causes have to fight, in order to be considered in a theoretical perspective. And yes, if I got your point, I do agree there is a rise of a contemporary anarchist movement, that finally found space in anthropology. With it, we can have hopes that so-called animal studies and/or social-democrat approachs to the environment can be given a shake up.

It is a piercing historical irony that the Dinka should work in a slaughterhouse. I will look for this ethnography, no doubt. Let me tell you that big industrial slaughterhouses in South Brazil prefer to hire Amerindians, allegedly because they work in silence! There is certainly something to understand here. 



Keith Hart said:

Nádia Farage said:

I tried to keep apart my work and activism. However, I had to acknowledge that my work was always fueled by passion, and I became as passionately involved with the struggle for animal rights, as I had been a decade earlier with the struggle for indigenous rights in Brazil.

 

How do I reconcile this with the anthropological tradition?

 

It was not only the republican idea that was defeated by the combined efforts of stalinists and fascists in the Spanish Civil War, but a much larger existential-political project.


Thank you, Nadia, for your serious, lucid and imaginative responses to our comments and questions. I have excerpted the above from your first reply to flag issues that I hope to return to in more detail. Briefly, the first evokes for me Marcel Mauss who maintained a Chinese wall between his academic and political engagements (and perhaps his sexuality too), with the consequence that generations of Anglophone anthropologists have missed the point of The Gift. Rather than teach dead texts, I prefer to provide background on the lives and social context of their writers and the political purposes they brought to the task. Certainly, anthropologists have been particularly coy about making public their own political engagements, if any. Perhaps their foothold in public institutions always felt precarious or it could be that they joined in order to escape from world history rather than make it. On your final statement, if the fall of the Soviet Union made the Russian revolution living history again, perhaps the analogy between the economic crisis today and the 1930s gives added salience to the losing side in the Spanish civil war. If we include the Italian autonomists, anarchism does seem to be enjoying a revival, not least through David Graeber's public success and the New York publishing cell around Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis.

 

But the main point of this post is to introduce an extraordinary case of modern migration that came to my attention when I was asked to review a manuscript for publication a decade ago. I thought it was sensational, but unfortunately it does not seem to have made it into print. I have posted the review, mainly for its summary of the incredible story, under the photo in Huon's introduction to the seminar (it isn't possible to attach a text to a comment).

Carol Ann Berger was a reporter for the BBC World Service in Southern Sudan when the civil war broke out again in the early 1980s. Later she came across some Sudanese refugees in her native Alberta and wrote a masters thesis in anthropology about them at the University of Alberta in 2001: From Cattle Camp to Slaughterhouse: the politics of identity among Cuban-educated Dinka refugees to Canada. It is a dramatic and poignant story of human-animal relations which bridges the world of traditional Nuer/Dinka ethnography and the biopolitics of contemporary societies.

In the mid-80s, Fidel Castro shipped over 600 children of leading figures in the rebel SPLA to Cuba. There they were trained as the vanguard of socialist revolution in Africa on an island that had been a penal colony and performed agricultural labour without pay for their keep. As young adults, the Sudanese had become Spanish-speakers with an emotional attachment to Cuba when the Canadian government resettled 200 of them in the western province of Alberta which has a large Sudanese migrant community. The 'Cubans' did not get on with the other Sudanese because they were not traditional enough and they suffered racial discrimination from white rednecks. Employment was hard to find, but some of them found it working nights in a slaughterhouse, Lakeside Packers, in Southern Alberta. This is the fourth largest meat-processing plant in the world. The choice of jobs available was either cutting up cow flesh while staying warm or handling frozen meat at joint-numbing temperatures. It is hard to imagine more alienating work for people brought up with animals as African children in the style documented by E-P and Godfrey Lienhardt.

I had never heard of this story before and I am pretty sure this remains the case for most people. I recalled it when I read your paper, Nadia, and even more when I learned about your passion for animal activism. The brutality is present at every stage of this narrative. Human beings, animals, it's hard to know where to start.

 

 

Thank you for your new remarks, John. I do agree with you that the paper is sketchy, as short papers tend to be. In this sense, this debate came in at a good moment, as I am preparing my data to re-write the issue in a lengthy essay.

What can you do with it? I do not know, really. I can suggest that, as in the case of all ethnography and/or historiography, you can approach the data – even if you disagree on the theoretical frame – and extract some resonances and parallels to other cases about the consequences of and resistances to modern biopolitics. On the theoretical ground, you may think that the paper proposes to take domestic species as an strategical locus to reflect on what Foucault and Agambem had depicted about the consequences of modernity. But in this line, you can also have some doubts about conventional labels such as “local history” or even “post-colonial”. Last but not least, you can think that historical approaches to Western dissident traditions and popular political practices can refine typological labels such as “naturalism” vs “animism”.

Feral packs? Junkyard dogs? I invite you to revisit K.Thomas or S.J.Gould’s works (they are not animal activists, as far as I know), in how they demonstrate that human predicates are cast upon nature and then retaken as natural matters of fact.

Talking about different projects of nature, it is time to abandon the rough correlation Hobbes : Rousseau :: nature : culture, for many reasons, most particularly, for the purposes of our debate, due to the fact that it constitutes a serious misunderstanding of Rousseau’s Discourse, most notably of the notion of piety and its theoretical consequences.



John McCreery said:

The brutality is present at every stage of this narrative. Human beings, animals, it's hard to know where to start.

And so....

What must be done?

Pondering these questions draws me back to the issue I raised before the seminar began. We encounter a familiar narrative frame: The villains are the bourgoise modernisers. The victims are the poor, to whom we now add the animals, seeing both as emblematic of life and nature crushed by the machine. Here the plot has a twist: All the poor can do, apart from the occasional riot,  is dream of being masterless dogs. 

But what do we do with this tale if we are neither Brazilian, with an interest in local history, nor animal rights activists, already committed to a cause that frames our retrospective understanding? 

To remark that masterless dogs form feral packs or, as the idiom "fighting like junkyard dogs" suggests, wind up living in a state of nature that is more Hobbes than Rousseau, doesn't, on the face of it, seem very productive. Ditto for recalling that infamous park in the pre-Revolution International Settlement in Shanghai, the one with the sign, "No Chinese or dogs allowed."

On the one hand, I ask again, were yellow fever and plague eradicated? Their incidence reduced? Only in the "modernised" parts of the city? Were the villains in the piece purely villains? Or is there something to be said for what they were trying to achieve? 

On the other, I wonder what anthropology can add to the story, to make it more than yet another example of the endless stream of brutality to which Keith refers? Do theoretical framings like Lee Drummond's Animal/Machine, Life/Death, Us/Them or Philippe Descola's four ontologies—Animism, Naturalism, Totemism, Analogism—suggest fresh angles from which to make the description richer, the analysis deeper, and the final story more compelling? 

Nadia, many thanks again for your careful commentaries. There is no need to respond immediately, since I think we can wait for other perspectives to appear in the questions: clearly there are parallels between the attempt to make animals and social inequality invisible in modern cities and states. Lee has pointed to the U.S. which has the highest rates of incarceration anywhere in the world. At the AAA meeting in Chicago I attended a fascinating workshop on 'Religion, Exchange and Blackness'. One of the speakers, Orisanmi Burton described how, since the black population is singled out for incarcertation in America, prisons have become the places where black intellectuals have gathered and educated themselves. He described a case where the Soros foundation became interested in one prison inmate in particular; they wanted to see this person as a special case for support but they were much less able to accept that there could be many highly educated black intellectuals living and working inside the prison system. 

So, one issue involves this 'making invisible' of certain kinds of relationships and possibilities and also how certain kinds of practices are forgotten as bureaucratic diktat comes to be accepted as a defining truth. And, of course, what you are doing archaeologically is to make those linkages visible again in certain ways. John raised one kind of response which is to say that, ultimately, the hygienic rules may have been brutal but did they not have good results? It would be interesting to unpack the assumptions involved here since they certainly are reasonable at a certain level.

According to a Brazilian friend, the massive screens that the government is putting up in between the Rio favelas (slums) and the bourgeois urb in advance of the olympic games are being placed there to protect the favela dwellers from the excessive noise that will be generated by the games...

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