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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 6 - The Political Lives of Animals in Victorian Empire

from Part III - The Biopolitics of Animal Capital


In this chapter I examine how indigenous South African animals, especially those used for capital, reinforced or rejected liberal imperial ideologies. I focus on the ostrich, native to South Africa and first domesticated by British colonists in the 1860s, and argue that even though ostriches were seen as ungovernable, colonists fostered their lives; as such both animal minds and bodies were controlled by British liberal imperialism. I then show how Oliver Schreiner’s essays, letters, and best-selling novel The Story of an African Farm conceptualize animals outside liberal imperial discourses and suggest that animality – in the form of animal–animal relationships and animal epistemology – offers alternate political models for human relationships within the space of empire especially. Through her portrayal of the ostrich, meerkats, and birds, Schreiner offers an animal politics that invites readers to rethink negative conceptions of animality and, by extension, liberal imperial discourses that operate within a speciesist logic.