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In Session: The Questions of East Asian Animalities: Capital, Politics, and Entangled Cultures across Species Boundaries
1: Remaking Animals: From Late Qing Draft Animal Protection to Early Republican Insect Control
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Northwestern University, United States
In the aftermath of the Boxers’ Rebellion, the Qing government accelerated its reform, including a radical revision of the legal codes inspired mainly by Japan. In the hope of stimulating industrial capitalism, the reform emphasized the protection of private property, which came at the cost of abolishing a millennium-long imperial sanction of draft animals. The legal recategorization of cattle and horses as a class of property that bore no difference with factories and motorized vehicles represented a watershed moment in Chinese animality. In the following decade, linguistic and cultural changes further consolidated a categorical separation between human and nonhuman animals. With the founding of the Bureau of Entomology in Jiangsu in 1922 under the financial auspices of a leading financial group in the Lower Yangzi, the change in animality reached a new chapter. As the Bureau became absorbed into the government, its professional staff labored to instill a binary logic that would define animals in purely utilitarian terms. As the financial backing of commercial groups faded, the Bureau’s program increasingly served the elite agenda of biopolitical management. The two cases demonstrate the intellectual merit to the historical analysis of animality.