In this episode of High Theory, Mackenzie Cooley talks about animals. The animal lies at the center of science and the human, from imperial conquest and Enlightenment thought to the creatures on our dinner plates and sitting beside us at the table. The practices of animal breeding and the politics of making life are, in Mackenzie’s account, key to understanding the history of race, as a concept that emerged in the Early Modern World.

For more animal encounters, check out her book The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Breeding, and Race in the Renaissance (Chicago UP, 2022). In it, Italian horses and Mexican dogs provide examples of controlled breeding before eugenics, help us understand how human difference was understood in the colonial encounter, and illuminate undertheorized notions of generation and its discontents in the more-than-human world. 

Tag dog and Bartolomé the cat sometimes participate in the making of High Theory, but the podcast is not necessarily pitched to non-human ears. If you want radio for animals, listen to Bad Animals on WFMU. 

Mackenzie Cooley is Assistant Professor of History, Director of Latin American Studies at Hamilton College. She is an intellectual historian who studies the uses, abuses, and understandings of the natural world in early modern science and medicine. And she has two Newfoundland dogs. 

The image accompanying this episode is a painting of a Newfoundland Dog by Charles Henry Schwanfelder (1812), from the collection of Temple Newsam House, Leeds Museums and Galleries

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