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The Underdog In History: Serfdom, Slavery And Species In The Creation And Development Of Capitalism

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Chapter Summary


This introductory chapter presents an overview of the book that is concerned with the way that we humans think about animals. The book is broadly post-humanist and post-structuralist in that it questions taken for granted assumptions about the human-animal divide and points to the ways in which this divide is maintained through the operation of knowledge. It is divided into four sections: (1) Knotty Problems: To Theorise or Not? (2) Animals and Modernity, (3) Animal Performers, and (4) Forward Thinking. The first section is comprised of two very different approaches to the idea of theorizing animals. The second section addresses human animal relations and species boundaries under modernity. The third section concentrates on the ideas of performance and per-formativity as a way to think about human-animal relations. The final section is concerned with the application of a relatively new social theory—actor network theory (ANT)—to human animal relations.

Keywords:actor network theory; human animal relations; modernity


In the last decade of the twentieth century widespread anxieties about the risks associated with 'dangerous dogs' were addressed through legislative change in the UK. Using television and newspaper reports and transcripts of parliamentary debates this chapter examines the frameworks that have tied discourses of dangerous dogs and pet-keeping to the dissolution of social structures in the UK. It explores how the disruptions to social hierarchies, characteristic of reflexive modernity, and the perceived threats posed by dogs were part of a wider process of risk management that used media images to organise public understanding. From a range of national and regional media sources the chapter then examines the uses and appropriations of images of 'dangerous dogs' and the consequent redefinitions of certain canines as risks and 'abject'.

Keywords:dangerous dogs; reflexive modernity; risk management; UK




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