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Environmental Ethics

Volume 23, Issue 4, Winter 2001

Clare Palmer
Pages 339-358

“Taming the Wild Profusion of Existing Things”?
A Study of Foucault, Power, and Human/Animal Relationships

I explore how some aspects of Foucoult’s work on power can be applied to human/animal power relations. First, I argue that because animals behave as “beings that react” and can respond in different ways to human actions, in principle at least, Foucoult’s work can offer insights into human/animal power relations. However, many of these relations fall into the category of “domination,” in which animals are unable to respond. Second, I examine different kinds of human power practices, in particular, ways in which humans construct animal constitutions and animal subjectivities. Finally, I use a case study of a pet cat to show how such power practices may come together in a single instance.

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