Workshop: Breedism and Racism. The Ideological Use of the Animal Body since 1800

Convenor: PD Dr. Mieke Roscher

For further info please see here.

The workshop examines racialized practices generated by animal breeding that affected both animals and humans, categorizing, qualifying, and quantifying their abilities and performances. Dogs, horses, and other species served as essentialized markers for the ideas of “pure blood” and the connection to a perceived “homeland”, not only during the era of National Socialism. Throughout the 19th century, the century in which animal breeding became institutionalized, nationalist aspirations increasingly found an animal foundation. The eugenics movement, in particular, which gained prominence in the early 20th century, was rooted in the belief that the human race could be improved by selective breeding. Eugenics aimed to promote the reproduction of individuals with desirable traits while discouraging or preventing those with perceived undesirable traits from reproducing.

The connection between (political) racism and breeding was first addressed by Enrique Ucelay da Cal in 1992. He demonstrated how genealogies were used to create specific types of animals that were then intended to be associated with a particular place. Breeding allegedly “superior” animals to control allegedly “inferior” humans marked as racialized, according to da Cal, involved an “intentional blurring of the boundaries between human and animal.”[1] The racial/racist paradigm was linked to a notion of capability and performance, which also co-constructed the “other”, the “excludable”.

The workshop will pick up on da Cals analyses and widen it by using theoretical concepts of historical animal studies, gender studies, critical race studies as well as approaches offered by the history of science, ideas and the body. It asks how material-semiotic nodes, that determine how the boundaries (for example, between human and animal, but also between “race” and “breed”) are drawn and endowed with meaning through social and bodily interaction. Breeding "superior" animals is thus considered the performative tool through which semiotic projections of racial differences were solidified and embodied. This intersectional perspective seeks to understand how different forms of bias and prejudice overlapped, ultimately influencing the experiences of both animals and marginalized human communities. For this, the workshop brings together researchers who look at the relationship between animal breeding and racism from 1800 to the present from different spatial and temporal perspectives on the question.

[1] Da Cal, Enrique Ucelay. 1992. “The Influence of Animal Breeding on Political Racism.” History of European Ideas 15 (4–6): 717–25.



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