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Pastoral power and the limits of Victorian nonhuman animal protection

By A. Feuerstein

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This paper argues that the Christian discourse disseminated by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (rspca) in the early Victorian period represents nonhuman animals as complicit in their own subjection. Using Foucault's notion of pastoral power - a power of care - we can recognize rspca discourse as constructing animal subjects who desire to remain subject to humankind. This essay demonstrates how three animal welfare tracts submitted to the rspca for a contest in 1837 rely on Christian discourse and construct animal subjects who willingly subject themselves to human needs and desires. These texts, one of which was the winner and published by the rspca, demonstrate that the construction of animal subjectivity within animal welfare discourse presents a striking form of power over animals that has not yet been noticed by other critics.

Publication Title Society & Animals
Volume 23
Issue 2
Pages 148-165
ISBN/ISSN 1063-1119
Language English
Author Address Department of English, University of Hawai'i-Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. British Isles
  3. Commonwealth of Nations
  4. Developed countries
  5. Domestic animals
  6. Europe
  7. OECD countries
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. Pets and companion animals
  10. United Kingdom
  1. peer-reviewed