By Nicole Shukin
The juxtaposition of biopolitical critique and animal studies—two topics seldom theorized together—signals the double-edged intervention of Animal Capital. Nicole Shukin pursues a resolutely materialist engagement with the “question of the animal,” demanding the philosophical idealism that has dogged the query through tracing how the politics of capital and of animal lifestyles impinge upon each other in marketplace 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 concurrently 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 severe job of monitoring the biopolitical stipulations and contradictions of animal capital around the areas of tradition and economy.
From the animal capital of abattoirs and autos, movies and cell phones, to pandemic worry of species-leaping ailments resembling avian influenza and mad cow, Shukin makes startling linkages among visceral and digital currencies in animal existence, illuminating entanglements of species, race, and exertions within the stipulations of capitalism. In reckoning with the violent histories and intensifying contradictions of animal rendering, Animal Capital increases provocative and urgent questions on the cultural politics of nature.
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Extra resources for Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Posthumanities)
130 It is difﬁcult to dissociate the logic of the specter from a biopolitical logic of capitalization bent on producing, administering, and circulating life as an undying currency. 131 Derrida himself draws attention to a biopolitical violence constituted by the power to keep animal life in a limbo economy of interminable survival, one equal to if not greater than the violence of liquidating animal life and extinguishing species. 132 Whenever Derrida historically engages with the ﬁeld of capitalism, that is, he acknowledges that a spectral materiality is often the very currency of exchange rather than a source of disturbance.
117 Inverting the usual sense of the passage, however, Derrida animalizes the spectral ontology of the commodity. He identiﬁes animal life not with the four-legged ﬁgure of use value that is hamstrung and drained by an abstract logic of exchange but with the “pigheaded” apparition, with exchangeability as a pugnacious potentiality immanent to value [ 36 ] INTRODUCTION itself. It is by conﬁguring exchange as an animal alterity that precedes and exceeds the historical hegemony of capital that Derrida deconstructs the speciﬁc critique of commodity fetishism and develops a global logic of spectrality in its place.
If there is still critical mileage to be coaxed out of the audio effects I have been sounding in this Introduction, I would like to propose “distortion” as the form that a dialectical practice inspired by the double entendre of rendering might take once it recasts itself in the mode of immanent critique, relinquishing the possibility of a clear oppositional vantage point. ”80 Distortion disrupts what Debray calls a telecom model of “painless transmission”81 by routing the semiotic vector of an animal sign through a material site of rendering, for example, diverting ﬁlm’s time-motion mimicry of animal physiology through the carnal space of the abattoir (see chapter 2), or the animal signs in a Canadian telecommunications ad campaign through neocolonial bushmeat and war economies (see chapter 3).
Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Posthumanities) by Nicole Shukin