First Advisor

Craig L. Carr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs and Policy


Public Affairs and Policy




Michel Foucault (1926-1984), Politics of truth, Discourse, Animals (Philosophy), Power (Social sciences), Sociology of Knowledge, Law -- Philosophy



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 232 p.)


Although Foucault did not address the question of the animal, he asserted the assessment of whether a new politics of truth can be constituted as "the essential political problem" (1980, p. 134). Though the "essential political problem" may be considered as it relates to the politics of truth about animals, a Foucaultian perspective does not allow a prediction in response, other than the recognition that change may occur. What is understood to be "true" about animals may change if the relationships between events that exist at a given time ("conditions") require the emergence of a different way of knowing. This Foucaultian critique of thought about animals examines "truth" about animals as an historical contingency, variable according to the conditions that have allowed its production. This project contributes to the development of a theoretical context of the politics of truth about animals. The politics of truth about animals is understood to be the push and pull of knowledge generated and perpetuated about them, together with concurrent power apparatuses in support of that knowledge as well as the ever present resistance to that power. By applying and extending Foucault's theory of power -that is, that knowledge is a carrier of power, power is a perpetuator of knowledge, and all power relations have resistances - this work employs Foucault's archaeological method to uncover dominant and subjugated discourses about animals and to describe power-knowledge associated with statements about animals that are understood to convey true things. This project describes the changeable nature of "truth" about animals and, necessarily, the politics of it, since the politics of truth is understood to be propelled by whichever knowledge and associated power are then dominant. Statements in "error" are also examined as resistance to power-knowledge about animals. The project describes subjugated discourses about animals that have been understood in various times and places to have truth-telling powers or, at least, to have been understood as "error," which provided points of resistance to the dominant discourse. It describes the partial derivation of discourse about animals by examining dominant discourses (e.g., the discourse of law and the discourse of lines) and subjugated discourses (e.g., animals are not personal property, karmic discourse, transmigration of souls discourse, rational animal discourse). Additionally, it describes like disperse statements among different referents (i.e., slave, animal, woman) that comprise various discursive formations that have been understood at various times to have truth-telling power about different referents. Subjugated discourse sometimes emerges as new "truth," though no such prediction can be made. To illustrate the point, the project describes the emergence of the new academic field related to the question of the animal, which resurrects or draws from some subjugated discourse (e.g., animals are not personal property).


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Hatfield School of Government. Division of Public Administration

Persistent Identifier