CURRENT AND PAST RESEARCH
Placing ‘Angola:’ Race, coloniality, and animality at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (2014-present)
My current research program examines legacies of colonial violence in human-animal relations at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as “Angola.” The prison, situated on the site of an old plantation, has an expansive farm where vegetables, cotton and soybeans are hand-cultivated by prison workers and where approximately 1,500 cattle are raised for beef. The prison also hosts the Angola Rodeo twice a year. Both of these spaces – the prison farm and rodeo – are sites of cross-species encounter, the examination of which contributes to understandings of colonial violence in a multispecies context, the gendered and racialized dimensions of human and animal oppression, and the violence of incarceration, domestication, and captivity. This multispecies ethnographic project is informed by, and contributes to, black feminisms, human-environment studies, critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and critical animal studies. This current fieldwork site is part of a larger project on prison food economies, cross-species analyses of agricultural labor, and questions around food sovereignty in spaces of incarceration.
Reproducing Dairy: Embodied animals and the institution of animal agriculture (2010-2014)
This multispecies ethnographic work involved an examination of the gendered commodification of the animal body in U.S. dairy production, drawing on the feminist geographical theory of the ‘global intimate’ (advanced by Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner) to describe the power-laden relationship between global processes of industrialization, political economy and the commodification of intimate animal bodies. I organized this work in four parts: 1) a politics of access, which looks at legal and political mechanisms shaping access to spaces of food production; 2) gender, sexuality and species, which explores the gendered materialities of animals in the dairy industry; 3) places of material and discursive commodification, which examines how places themselves are central to the commodification of animal bodies; and 4) educational paradigms, which explores how educational programs reproduce the institution of animal agriculture. Telling the stories of individual animals and humans throughout the text, this work drew attention to the grievability of animals’ lives and deaths in the food system in an act of making the personal – the intimate – political. This work will be published as a book entitled The Cow with Ear Tag #1389, under contract with the University of Chicago Press.
Killing with Kindness? Reconceptualizing ‘humane’ slaughter (2008-2010)
This project explored the policies, economies, and practices surrounding animal slaughter in the United States meat industry at both industrial and small scales. In addition to covering the material realities of slaughter for farmed animals, the project uncovered the legal and discursive dimensions of slaughter industries. The legal dimensions of this project involved understanding the federal and state laws governing the lives and deaths of farmed animals and concluded that the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (the only legislation protecting farmed animals, birds excluded) is lax and insufficiently enforced and provides no protections to animals during their lives leading up to slaughter. Paired with this lax legal climate, industrial and small farm discourses relating to slaughter obscure the violence and inhumaneness of the process.