Apparatuses of Animality: Foucault Goes to a Slaughterhouse


  • Stephen Thierman University of Toronto



The work of Michel Foucault is not often considered in animal ethics discussions, but I believe that many of his insights can be fruitfully extended into this area of philosophical inquiry. In this paper, I present the slaughterhouse as a technology of power that is complicit in the domination and objectification of both human and nonhuman animal subjects. I begin by arguing that Foucault’s notion of an “apparatus” is a useful methodological tool for thinking about the constellation of spaces and discourses in which various bodies (both human and nonhuman) find themselves enmeshed. Next, I outline Foucault’s multifaceted conceptualization of “power,” and I consider whether it makes sense to think of other animals as implicated in “power relations” in the various Foucauldian senses. Finally, I analyze a journalistic account of a contemporary slaughterhouse. Here, I argue that a variety of hierarchies (spatial, racial, species, etc.) dovetail to create an environment in which care and concern are virtually impossible. By coupling a Foucauldian analysis with certain insights developed in the bioethical work of Ralph Acampora, I offer a normative critique of an institution that has pernicious effects on both human and nonhuman animals.

Author Biography

Stephen Thierman, University of Toronto

Stephen Thierman is a PhD. candidate at the University of Toronto. His research interests include Social and Political Philosophy, Bioethics, and Critical Animal Studies.




How to Cite

Thierman, S. (2010). Apparatuses of Animality: Foucault Goes to a Slaughterhouse. Foucault Studies, (9), 89–110.