Afro-Dog

Blackness and the Animal Question

Bénédicte Boisseron

Columbia University Press

Afro-Dog

Pub Date: August 2018

ISBN: 9780231186650

320 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: August 2018

ISBN: 9780231186643

320 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: August 2018

ISBN: 9780231546744

320 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Afro-Dog

Blackness and the Animal Question

Bénédicte Boisseron

Columbia University Press

The animal-rights organization PETA asked “Are Animals the New Slaves?” in a controversial 2005 fundraising campaign; that same year, after the Humane Society rescued pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while black residents were neglected, some declared that white America cares more about pets than black people. These are but two recent examples of a centuries-long history in which black life has been pitted against animal life. Does comparing human and animal suffering trivialize black pain, or might the intersections of racialization and animalization shed light on interlinked forms of oppression?

In Afro-Dog, Bénédicte Boisseron investigates the relationship between race and the animal in the history and culture of the Americas and the black Atlantic, exposing a hegemonic system that compulsively links and opposes blackness and animality to measure the value of life. She analyzes the association between black civil disobedience and canine repression, a history that spans the era of slavery through the use of police dogs against protesters during the civil rights movement of the 1960s to today in places like Ferguson, Missouri. She also traces the lineage of blackness and the animal in Caribbean literature and struggles over minorities’ right to pet ownership alongside nuanced readings of Derrida and other French theorists. Drawing on recent debates on black lives and animal welfare, Afro-Dog reframes the fast-growing interest in human–animal relationships by positioning blackness as a focus of animal inquiry, opening new possibilities for animal studies and black studies to think side by side.
Dazzling in its reach and groundbreaking in its methodology, Afro-Dog redraws the contours of intellectual inquiry with dogs at the lead. Boisseron aims to rethink the hyper-legality of racism and the practice of inequality in ways that are radical and far-reaching. Colin Dayan, author of With Dogs at the Edge of Life
Bénédicte Boisseron’s Afro-Dog hones in, acutely and in detail, on the often-unhappy convergence of 'animal' and 'black' in current and historical thought, deftly dismantling their rhetorical obfuscations while sacrificing neither 'the animal' nor 'the black.' Instead, she calls for attending to human-animal encounters through the lens of black and animal defiance, a kind of subversive interspecies alliance that could empower both. Brilliantly enlisting theoretical and critical voices in critical race studies, animal studies, Afropessimism, ecofeminism, and more, Boisseron brings a crucial Black Alantic and diasporic perspective to bear on blackness and the question of the animal to show, not that blackness and animality are comparable, but that black people and animals have been and are historically and concretely connected—most often in the form of 'man' and 'dog.' Carla Freccero, University of California, Santa Cruz
In Afro-Dog, Boisseron brilliantly demonstrates how the relationship between race and personhood has been missing entirely from the current human/animal rights debate, resulting in the argument that animals constitute the new 'slaves.' In doing so she offers a long overdue exploration of the larger and more extended links in American and French culture where blackness and animality have become almost interchangeable in popular discourse. Sandra Gunning, University of Michigan
Afro-Dog is a timely effort to tackle the fraught relations between posthumanism and postcolonialism and between animal studies and African American studies. Inflected by continental philosophy, Boisseron’s readings follow a historical trail of dogs from the Middle Passage to the Ferguson unrest in order to theorize a legacy of connections between racism and speciesism, but without posing a false analogy between the two. Especially insightful and important are her arguments about the potential dangers of intersectional analyses which 'risk reproducing what they mean to reject.' Kari Weil, author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now?
Afro-Dog is an amazing book! The animal is not 'the new black'; animals are not the new slaves; and animal studies is not heir to the postcolonial turn. Instead, racialization, specifically New World blackness, is now present in all things animal. Whether as large dogs imported to the Americas to attack indigenous and African rebels or their repressive use in Standing Rock and Ferguson, Bénédicte Boisseron brilliantly explores dogs as instrumental accessories in defining human essence as white, impelling readers to consider the fundamental relationship between challenging speciesism and transcending colonialism. A must-read for anyone interested in the study of animals, enslavement, and race. Jane Gordon, University of Connecticut
Boisseron documents and elaborates on the 'animalization' of blacks and the 'blackification' of animals, the two having often been treated the same by Euro-americans and in their laws....Recommended. Choice
An engaging, synthetic, and quick read on the importance of understanding the flaws of privilege in the making of activist engagements. As such, it should be read by scholars of Atlantic slavery, racial identity, and the animal liberation movement. H-Florida
Introduction: Blackness Without Analog
1. Is the Animal the New Black?
2. Blacks and Dogs in the Americas
3. The Commensal Dog in a Creole Context
4. Dog Ownership in the Diaspora
5. The Naked Truth About Cats and Blacks
Coda
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Read the introduction to AFRO-DOG: BLACKNESS AND THE ANIMAL QUESTION, by Bénédicte Boisseron. In this work, Boisseron investigates the relationship between race and the animal in the history and culture of the Americas and the black Atlantic, exposing a hegemonic system that compulsively links and opposes blackness and animality to measure the value of life.

About the Author

Bénédicte Boisseron is associate professor of Afroamerican and African studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of Creole Renegades: Rhetoric of Betrayal and Guilt in the Caribbean Diaspora (2014).