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Animal Capital

Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times

2009
Author:

Nicole Shukin

Animal Capital

Illuminates the profound contingency of market life on animal figures and flesh

The juxtaposition of biopolitical critique and animal studies—two subjects seldom theorized together—signals the double-edged intervention of Animal Capital. Nicole Shukin pursues a resolutely materialist engagement with the “question of the animal,” challenging the philosophical idealism that has dogged the question by tracing how the politics of capital and of animal life impinge on one another in market cultures of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Through innovative analyses of the central position of animal life in both the history of capitalist production and our social world more generally, Nicole Shukin makes an exciting and challenging contribution to theories of biopolitics.

Michael Hardt, coauthor of Empire and Multitude

The juxtaposition of biopolitical critique and animal studies—two subjects seldom theorized together—signals the double-edged intervention of Animal Capital. Nicole Shukin pursues a resolutely materialist engagement with the “question of the animal,” challenging the philosophical idealism that has dogged the question by tracing how the politics of capital and of animal life impinge on one another in market cultures of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Shukin argues that an analysis of capital’s incarnations in animal figures and flesh is pivotal to extending the examination of biopower beyond its effects on humans. “Rendering” refers simultaneously to cultural technologies and economies of mimesis and to the carnal business of boiling down and recycling animal remains. Rendering’s accommodation of these discrepant logics, she contends, suggests a rubric for the critical task of tracking the biopolitical conditions and contradictions of animal capital across the spaces of culture and economy.

From the animal capital of abattoirs and automobiles, films and mobile phones, to pandemic fear of species-leaping diseases such as avian influenza and mad cow, Shukin makes startling linkages between visceral and virtual currencies in animal life, illuminating entanglements of species, race, and labor in the conditions of capitalism. In reckoning with the violent histories and intensifying contradictions of animal rendering, Animal Capital raises provocative and pressing questions about the cultural politics of nature.

Animal Capital

Nicole Shukin is assistant professor of English at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

Animal Capital

Through innovative analyses of the central position of animal life in both the history of capitalist production and our social world more generally, Nicole Shukin makes an exciting and challenging contribution to theories of biopolitics.

Michael Hardt, coauthor of Empire and Multitude

Shukin’s analysis of the politics of the sign and substance of animal life in the operations of contemporary capital makes a major contribution to the growing field of theoretical research on animals and the complex character of contemporary power. A thrilling read that explodes with ideas on every page.

Imre Szeman, author of Zones of Instability

A catalytic piece of scholarship. . . . The book offers a versatile critical framework through which to consider how animal life is enmeshed in and integral to market cultures.

Humanimalia

Shukins’ text is a valuable contribution to animal studies, bringing together Foucaultian biopolitics, Derrida-inspired cultural studies, and Marxist analysis of capital.

Choice

The strength of Animal Capital is the author’s ability to challenge the reader to view the familiar of technology within the concepts of the dependence and exploitation of the animal. . . . Shukin’s sociopolitical analysis of such rendered mimesis produces a volume that will significantly extend dialogues within animal studies.

ISIS

This is simply a brilliant, wild beast of a book. Monumentally majestic, wildly unexpected, feline in its rhetorical agility, full of cunning like a fox as it circles around the plotting of capitalism to get us to fall into its animal traps, merciless in its going after the jugular of the games of capitalist mimesis. If it were to come with a sound chip, it would growl and roar. There is no wasted page, no superfluous sentence, and no seeming digression that does not turn into a moment of brilliant lucidity.

JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric