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Animalia AmericanaAnimal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity$
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Colleen Boggs

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231161237

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231161237.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Bestiality Revisited

Bestiality Revisited

The Primal Scene of Biopower

(p.77) 2 Bestiality Revisited
Animalia Americana

Frederick Douglass

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the way nineteenth-century statesman Frederick Douglass's reflected on animals as a means to explain and disrupt the relationship between racial stereotypes and “the animal sign.” Douglass's engagement with animals and animality in relation to American biopolitics was graphically illustrated in his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). He divided the story of his life into two parts, each of which was introduced by an elaborate woodcut that depicts “the generic iconography of white nationalism” rather than specific scenes from the book. Throughout his work, Douglass used animals and animality not only to reveal the logic of slavery, but to envision alternative forms of subjectivity. This chapter considers Douglass's assertion that bestiality is the primal scene of biopower and that bestiality not only founds the juridical subject homo juridicus but produces the interest-bearing subject Michel Foucault calls “homo oeconomicus”.

Keywords:   animals, Frederick Douglass, racial stereotypes, animality, biopolitics, My Bondage and My Freedom, slavery, subjectivity, bestiality, biopower

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