Sunday, July 25, 2010


In “Animal Capital”, Shukin uses the double-entendre of the word rendering.  The double meaning refers to the representation of animals and the act of processing animals.  This “double edged sword” effectively “signals a tangle of biopolitical relations within which the economic and symbolic capital of animal life can no longer be sorted into binary distinction… Animal memes and animal matter are mutually overdetermined as forms of capital, and its aim is to track what Bourdieu terms the “interconvertibility” of symbolic life and economic forms of capital via the fetishistic currency of animal life”. (p. 7)

In other words the representational or translational act of rendering animals cannot be wholly separated from the historical and current practice of rendering or processing animal flesh.  This is one of the central themes of Shukin’s “Animal Captial” and she includes three case studies that support her “cultural materialist approach” (in the words of T. Sipley) in the chapters “Automobility”, “Telemobiltiy” and “Biomobility”.  While we have read and discussed the concepts behind “Biomobility” in ch. 4, I found that ch. 2, on “Automobility”, traces the fascinating material history of the slaughterhouse, the automobile industry and modern film.  In summary, the Ford assembly line was designed on slaughterhouse rendering or disassembly equipment, and the most important ingredient in the film industry was gelatin made from animal rendering.  The apex of the history of the car, film and the animal is seen when the automobile replaces the animal as the primary mode of transportation.  Advertisements for the automobile begin to represent the car as an animal that is part of the natural landscape.  Overt examples of such advertisements show the car actually morphing into an animal.  When the car is translated as an animal “the destroyer of nature is naturalized”.  

I think this is the commercial in which Shukin refers.

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