Friday, April 24, 2009

Richard W. Bulliet

Richard W. Bulliet is the author of Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Question: What is "postdomesticity"?

Richard Bulliet: Postdomesticity refers to a group of attitudes and practices that arise in societies that rely heavily on animal products—meat, milk products, leather, etc.—while most people living in the society have no contact at all with the producing animals. Feelings of guilt and shame about animal slaughter in all its forms (hunting, meat-packing, fur harvesting, etc.) are central characteristics of postdomesticity. These feelings underlie an increasing sensitivity to animal rights and opposition to hunting, trapping, fur farming, and use of animals as experimental subjects. They also motivate people who have no relevant religious or cultural background as vegetarians to choose a vegetarian life-style. I call this "elective vegetarianism."

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Q: How do pornographies of blood and sex relate to postdomesticity?
RB: The explosion in popular consumption of pornographies of sex and blood that began in the 1960s doubtless has multiple causes. An important aspect, however, was the almost total elimination of experience with animal reproduction and slaughter from the lives of most young Americans after World War II. Earlier generations living in domestic times had become accustomed from childhood to animals being brutalized and killed, and to animal reproduction. Though it was seldom acknowledged, these experiences accustomed young people to such scenes and ensured that throughout their lives they would regard bloodshed and sexual activity as part of the real carnal world. In postdomestic situations, children are protected from witnessing animal killing and sexual relations. Parents, perhaps rightly, consider such sights coarsening and inappropriate for children. The consequence, however, is a child's first exposure to bloodshed and sexual activity coming increasingly from magazines, videotapes, wildlife documentaries, and erotic Web sites. This type of exposure locates sex and blood in the realm of the imagination, and this opens the door to further imaginative stimulation via pornographic images and slice-and-dice horror movies.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue