This essay analyzes two late Victorian texts by white women colonists in South Africa—F. Clinton Parry’s children’s book African Pets (1880) and Annie Martin’s memoir Home Life on an Ostrich Farm (1890)—to nuance understandings of animality as racialization. By reading representations of colonial pet-keeping, the essay shows how the racializing tendencies of Western humanism—especially within slavery and colonialism—manifest within gendered animal-human relationships and help construct both Blackness and whiteness. It focuses on pet-keeping in the colonies to explore understandings of animal-human relationships within the Victorian empire and thus revises Achille Mbembe’s taxonomy of colonial animality. Moving beyond comparison and the tendency to group multiple kinds of dehumanizing practices within slavery and colonialism under the term animalization, the essay suggests that the assemblage is a more productive way to read the many layers of dehumanization taking place within colonial contexts. By analyzing constructions of Blackness, whiteness, and the animal together, it argues that within the animalization and dehumanization projected from the white colonist, we can move beyond reading only for anti-Blackness and locate significant moments of Black fugitivity, wherein Blackness escapes the racializing logics of Western humanism.

You do not currently have access to this content.