Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some random dissertation talk

So, I almost never talk about the dissertation on here, and I suddenly realized that many of you may have no clue what the work was looking like. Anyway, here is a brief description of the work, for any that are curious. (I just got through chatting with the philo department here on campus, and realized that I need practice talking about the dissertation project).

The dissertation is basically divided into two sections. The first section is dedicated to understanding the way that raising and slaughtering of other animals have changed our mode of production. I want to be precise here, the argument isn't how a different mode of production has given rise to different slaughtering and raising methods, but actually the opposite argument. The way we have killed animals and raised animals has greatly shifted our modes of production. The first obvious way occurs with the invention of the assembly line at the Chicago stockyards (and of course, not just an assembly line, but everything that made Chicago possible. This involved the raise of trains, the invention of refrigerator cars, monocultural agriculture, disciplinary techniques of worker management, new accounting methods, barbed wire, vertical monopolies, feedlots and early genetic manipulations of animals, new advertising techniques, etc). So, the assembly line was birthed through a whole ecology of interactions that centered around and mutually interdependent with Chicago and the packers. In this case, the argument is against a sort of historical accident (though of course, it could have happened otherwise). But that it required a certain disavowal of the animal, a certain biopolitics, that really allowed for these new modes of production ('the machine', as Marx puts it) to develop.
The next major change obviously culminates in the 1970s with the birth of what we call factory farming. This of course brings in all sorts of biocapital changes in the mode of production. In this case the question of eugenics being rooted so strongly in the animal sciences, and the development of certain reproductive technologies really rises out of animal sciences. But what occurs is a certain molecular or genetic primitive accumulation, and again what begins with animals is now beginning to spread elsewhere.
What is important in all of this is to understand that the disavowal of the animal is not ancillary or even produced by these modes of production, but rather the disavowal of the animal is constitutive to these modes.
The second section of the dissertation focuses on the other end, rather than looking at what we are doing and have done to animals, this section looks at proposed solutions to the question of the animal. In this case I explore the concept of the person, Deleuze and Guattari's notion of becoming-animal, an ontology of vulnerability, and vegetarianism/veganism. I think the last two are the ones that I tend to post about the most on this blog, so I'll let that go for now. I have made some small moves on this blog to what I am interested about in the concept of the person, but it is mostly about how that concept is rooted in property ownership and legal obligations. As far as D&G are concerned, I think their work is pretty awesome, but I think there remains a nagging anthropocentrism to their work, a certain obsession with the human that remains in the notion of becoming-animal.

There was a lot more I wanted to do, but my committee and I agreed that the dissertation was going to be big enough as it was (which is why I don't deal the question of sacrifice or the question of rights in any real detail in the dissertation).

So, that's it.