This article examines the descent of human beings into human game (animal hunted for food and sport) and even further into a vermin being (pestiferous being in need of elimination). It goes beyond the realm of similitude, that is, the treatment of certain people like animals, towards the treatment of people as animals. When humans turn other humans into vermin beings, as preparation for annihilating them using weapons befitting “problem animals.” At issue is not merely an indifference toward the pain, killing, or loss of those so “othered,” but their transformation into instruments for dehumanizing others, and the ecstasy that comes from producing corpses, stench, and pain. The pest is no mute subject; it is indefatigable. To call a person or animal a pest is to acknowledge his/its potential or actual resistance or infraction of boundaries one sets. This perception of “the other” (in the colonial case “the natives”) as “vermin being” turned colonialism, from the onset, into an exercise in pestilence and pest control work. The article examines African resistance against colonial settler rule between 1890 and 1980 as pestiferous mobility and the state response as pesticide (the theory, technology, and practice of pest control). Designated as vermin (terrorists), African guerrillas fighting for independence were subjected to weapons that had been used against wild animals, such as poisons. The article ends with a reminder that the designation and treatment of people as vermin beings has outlasted the birth of an independent Zimbabwean state.
Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga; Vermin Beings: On Pestiferous Animals and Human Game. Social Text 1 March 2011; 29 (1 (106)): 151–176. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-1210302
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