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