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The cow with ear tag #1389 and other stories: Unthinking commodification

Kathryn Gillespie, PhD (University of Washington, USA)

What does it mean to commodify a living being—a cow—so thoroughly that her life and body, her reproductive capacities, and even her body beyond the point of death become commodified? What are the ethical and political consequences of this commodification? In this talk, based on her new book The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 [University of Chicago Press, 2018], Gillespie shares stories from fieldwork on the lives of cows raised for dairy production in the United States to theorize the cow as a living commodity and to reveal the lived reality of animals in the dairy industry. These insights suggest a need for a careful theorization of the commodification of life that prompts alternative ways of thinking about and living with farmed animal species.

 Bio: Kathryn Gillespie, PhD is an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Geography at the University of Washington. She is a feminist geographer and critical animal studies scholar working on normalized forms of violence in human-animal relations. Gillespie is the author of The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 [University of Chicago Press, 2018], coeditor of Critical Animal Geographies [Routledge, 2015] and Economies of Death [Routledge, 2015], and author of numerous journal articles. She is currently co-editing with Yamini Narayanan of Deakin University a special issue on animal nationalisms for the Journal of Intercultural Studies. In her free time she volunteers with Pigs Peace Sanctuary, Food Empowerment Project, and the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound.