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Discipline and puppies: the powers of pet keeping
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article analyzes eighteen interviews with pet owners to conceptualize how they organize their lives in relation to their pets. I use Foucault’s concepts of the bipolar technology of disciplinary power and regulatory biopower in combination with Haraway’s material-semiotics to explore the normative frameworks that structure the relationship between pet and owner and make it meaningful. The analysis shows that the boundaries of the home, the play of power between bodies, and exchanges of love and care are central to producing the pet relationship as inherently meaningful and as an indispensible part of the lives of both pet keepers and pets. While pet owners produce their pets’ subjectivity by speaking of them as autonomous persons, pets also enable their owners’ subjectivity. I end the article by comparing pet keeping to Foucault’s notion of a lived critique to underline that the power dynamics of pet keeping problematize the often taken-for-granted status of one of sociology’s main objects of study: “the human".

Keywords [en]
biopower, companion animals, cynicism, disciplinary power, Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, human-animal relations, pets, resistance
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-32190OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-32190DiVA, id: diva2:660213
Available from: 2013-10-29 Created: 2013-10-29 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. An animal without an animal within: investigating the identities of pet keeping
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An animal without an animal within: investigating the identities of pet keeping
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

If the human is an animal without an animal within—a creature that has transcended the animal condition—what is a pet? This creature balancing on the border between nature and culture, simultaneously included in and excluded from a human “we”, is the focus of this thesis. The thesis analyzes the discourses and normative frameworks structuring the meaning of pets in people’s lives. By extension, it analyzes how the boundary between “human” and “animal” is produced, negotiated, and challenged in the relationship between pet and owner.

Each of this thesis’ four constituent studies focuses on an aspect of personal relationships between humans and pets: pets as figures for philosophical thinking, the dual role of pets as commodities and companions, the grief for lost pets, and the power issues at play in the everyday life of pet and owner. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s genealogical approach, crossbred with Donna Haraway’s material-semiotic perspective, the analysis exposes the powers allowing pets to occupy these various positions.

The thesis demonstrates that pets occupy a special position as boundary creatures in the lives of humans, allowing humans to play with and thus reproduce dichotomies inherent to the contemporary Western worldview, such as human/animal, person/nonperson, subject/object, and friend/commodity. However, pets’ conceptual transgressions may also challenge this worldview. On the one hand, pets are bought and sold as commodities, but on the other, they are widely included in the human sphere as friends or family members. This paradoxical position is accentuated in the construction of a more-than-human home, and it is also visible when pets pass away. This thesis argues that pets, these anomalous creatures, may help humans understand that there are no humans or animals within, only relations between them. Based on this argument, this thesis develops a sociological approach for analyzing the production of humanity and animality in relations between humans and other animals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet, 2013. p. 119
Series
Örebro Studies in Sociology, ISSN 1650-2531 ; 17
Keywords
animal studies, animality, anomalies, companion animals, Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, human-animal studies, materialsemiotics, pets, posthumanism
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-29323 (URN)978-91-7668-971-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-11-15, HSF, Hörsal F, Forumhuset, Örebro universitet, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-06-04 Created: 2013-06-04 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved

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Redmalm, david

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Citation style
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