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,” not easy the philosophical idealism that has dogged the query by means of tracing how the politics of capital and of animal lifestyles impinge upon each other in marketplace cultures of the 20 th 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 enterprise of boiling down and recycling animal continues to be. Rendering’s lodging of those discrepant logics, she contends, indicates a rubric for the severe 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, motion pictures and cellphones, to pandemic worry of species-leaping illnesses reminiscent of 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 on the cultural politics of nature.
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Additional resources for Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Posthumanities)
As Taussig suggests, mimetic power in this sense involves the magic of “the visual likeness” and the “magic of substances” (50). In a similar vein, the rubric of rendering brings mimesis into sight as a “two-layered” logic of reproduction involving “sympathetic” technologies of representation and “pathological” technologies of material control. Taussig’s notion of a two-layered economy of mimesis helps to counter aesthetic theories that reserve mimesis for representational practices tacitly held at a distance from the material exploits of a capitalist economy.
Derrida particularly favors the ﬁgure of a “headstrong dog,” possibly because dog, a semordnilap for god, helps him to conﬁgure an immanent versus transcendent ontology (155). Derrida thus insinuates the image of a compulsive becoming-animal into Marx’s passage under the guise of a “literal” paraphrase. Yet it is widely held that Marx inscribed the fetishizing movement as an impersonation, or anthropomorphization, of the commodity. 117 Inverting the usual sense of the passage, however, Derrida animalizes the spectral ontology of the commodity.
He fuses them in the notion of “animetaphor”: “One ﬁnds a fantastic transversality at work between the animal and the metaphor — the animal is already a metaphor, the metaphor an animal. Together they transport to language, breathe into language, the vitality of another life, another expression: animal and metaphor, a metaphor made ﬂesh, a living metaphor that is by deﬁnition not a metaphor, antimetaphor—‘animetaphor’” (165). As animals “vanish” from historical modernity, continues Lippit, a spirit or trace of animality—ultimately an indestructible code — is salvaged by the technological media.