Distributed Agency in CAFO Communities
Anandita Mukherji, PhD
Thesis Committee Member(s)
Thomas J. Howe, PhD & Lara Narcisi, PhD
Eric Fretz, PhD
Thesis - Open Access
Number of Pages
The thesis appropriates the Vital Materialist thought of political theorist Jane Bennett working in the philosophy of new materialism. Informed by a Deleuzian tradition, Bennett’s reading of Spinoza cements an understanding of materiality as lively and vibrant, wherein things demonstrate a thing-power along lines of effect that correspond to inert tendencies of persistence and activity in the object itself. This account of physical matter as vibrant, or lively, accommodates a distributed image of agency; that is to say, vital materialism seeks to take seriously the political activity and power of non-human bodies within an ecology, interrogating a traditionally anthropocentric privileging of ‘the human’ in ontology and metaphysics. A distributed image of agency rewrites traditional discourses on political thought and political problem-posing. The thesis contests that distributed agency in the form of an assemblage structure pulls politics out of prototypically human concerns—where political thought can become constipated with questions of permissibility, responsibility, and culpability—and towards an account of political thought that rests in the relationships between humans and non-human physical actants. The unique political ecology of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and their surrounding communities provides a useful scenario for analyzing the ways in which emergent causality and conatus are better suited for political analysis than traditional models of thought. In this framework we can seriously consider the political liveliness and impacts of cattle fecal dust, pollutants, chemical run-off and various other non-human bodies within the framework of a political ecology.
Date of Award
© Nicholas Aranda
Aranda, Nicholas, "Vital Materialism, Thing Power, & Political Ecologies of Fecal Dust" (2021). Student Publications. 1012.