Publication Details

Griffiths, M. R. (2010). “The Tame from the Wild”: handling political economies of life at the Emergence of capital. Humanimalia: a journal of human/animal interface studies, 1 (2), 1-18.


At least since Aristotle, representations of animality in fictions of the economy have skirted the bounds of allegorical and mimetic modes or (to employ a distinction consonant with the old terms of the Great Chain of Being) those of analogy and emulation. For Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, animals as living beings must be consigned to the status of “tame” chattel property. They are also relied upon as the bases for economic arguments from the “analogy of animals.” Inscriptions of species difference in such arguments often conceal material origins within genres that appear entirely analogical or allegorical. At times, ironically, scholarly efforts to address human representations of animals consistently risk reducing the animal to a figment of the human imaginary even as the gesture that performs this reduction is itself the product of an ethical imperative. As we all know, the tension between ethics and anthropocentrism has been the subject of much debate in the burgeoning study of non-human animals. The question has been, to a degree vexed and difficult partly because the very study of animality automatically questions the foundations of what people think of as ethics. Ethics then appears as monstrous, but so, too, does the attempt to rethink it beyond the humanist paradigm.