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Making Horsework Visible: Domestication and Labor from Buffon to Bonheur

Making Horsework Visible: Domestication and Labor from Buffon to Bonheur

Chapter:
(p.63) Chapter Three Making Horsework Visible: Domestication and Labor from Buffon to Bonheur
Source:
Precarious Partners
Author(s):
Kari Weil
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226686400.003.0004

“Do animals work?” ask philosopher of science, Vincianne Despret and sociologist, Jocelyne Porcher. In answer to this question, this chapter argues that the paintings of Rosa Bonheur make “horsework” visible, not only in moments of resistance or refusal, but also in moments of willed synchronic movement that reveals a horse’s agency and capacity for cooperation. Animals in general, and horses in particular were integral to the artistic mission of this female “animalier,” who joined the SPA, studied with the naturalists, Geoffroy and Isidore Saint-Hilaire believed that non-human animals, as well as women, had active roles within a Saint-Simonian world order (or her version of that order), where industry, talent and love were more important than distinctions of blood, sex, and sometimes species. As she questioned the conditions under which animals can thrive, Bonheur paints what we might call scenes of recognition, where a momentary glance on the part of a horse catches the viewer’s eye and reminds us that non-human animals have a point of view, one that should be tended to.

Keywords:   Rosa Bonheur, Vincianne Despret, Saint-Simonianism, Saint-Hilaire, agency, industry

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