Cast Out Urbanites: The Historical Problematization of Cows in Kingston

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Hirtenfelder, Claudia
critical animal studies , animal studies , animal geography , urban animal geography , historical geography , Problematization , Kingston , Urban problematization of animals , Property Pastures and Pounds , Urban Disease and Health , Urban Slaughter , Speculative Vignettes , InVisibilization , Cows , Historical Animal Subjects , In Visibilization , Death and Waste
Animals are regularly defined and managed as problems in urban policies and practices. Despite being common, the problematization of animals is ill-understood and under-theorized in urban geography. In this dissertation, I argue that problematization is important because it has significant implications for animals: not only in how they are subjected to violent disciplinary practices but also in how they are made epistemically visible (or not) as urban subjects. That is, problematization objectifies animals and can contribute to their physical and epistemic in/visibility in cities. One effect of problematization is that it makes some animals visible to the historical record as problems. Consequently, scholars often write urban histories and analyses that reconstitute these animals as problematic objects, failing to recognize that problematization involves multispecies power relations that animals experience. Focusing on the problematization of cows in Kingston, Ontario between 1838-1938, I explore how problematization can conceptually be used to understand the urban histories of animals in a way that takes them seriously as subjects. I argue that a spatial understanding of problematization allows for a nuanced multispecies analysis. In doing so, I analytically focus on spaces of configuration, material spaces of governance, and institutional/social spaces. Methodologically, I use material gathered from the Queen’s University Archives and conduct a discourse analysis that focuses on how cows were legally constituted and municipally governed as problems. I supplement this analysis with speculative vignettes and maps that make cows better visible as historical subjects. Drawing together these diverse modes of analysis, I argue that cows in Kingston were problematized because they were defined and managed as transgressive in property relations, risky in health relations, and waste in commodity relations. This problematization not only resulted in cows’ bodies, environments, and social worlds being violently managed but also contributed to cows being cast out from Kingston’s urban imaginary.
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