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Against SustainabilityReading Nineteenth-Century America in the Age of Climate Crisis$
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Michelle Neely

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823288229

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823288229.001.0001

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Radical Pet Keeping: Crafts, Wilson, and Living with Others in the Anthropocene

Radical Pet Keeping: Crafts, Wilson, and Living with Others in the Anthropocene

(p.116) Chapter 4 Radical Pet Keeping: Crafts, Wilson, and Living with Others in the Anthropocene
Against Sustainability

Michelle C. Neely

Fordham University Press

Chapter four explores radical pet keeping, an unlikely environmentalism keyed to the strengths and the weaknesses of the Anthropocene proposal. The first part of the chapter examines how figures of the animal, beast, pet, and pet keeping typically feature in antislavery literature by authors ranging from David Walker to Harriet Beecher Stowe. The next section explores Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative (c. 1853–1861), which develops a disturbing vignette of pet and enslaved pet keeper murder that undermines the naturalness of oppression based upon racial and species difference. The last part of the chapter treats Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig (1859), which depicts an interspecies friendship between Frado and Frado’s pet dog, Fido. Frado’s transgressive sympathy allows her to imagine familial relationships between not only Blacks and whites, or servants and masters, but humans and animals, as well. The chapter argues the radical pet keeping imagined in these two novels rests upon an ethic of care that fosters interracial and interspecies solidarity not dependent on sameness. Radical pet keeping, like Black feminism, foregrounds interdependence across differences, making it a useful environmental paradigm in the Anthropocene, as climate change increasingly forces all life on Earth to live in the world Anthros has built.

Keywords:   animals pet keeping, Anthropocene, Black feminism, The Bondwoman’s Narrative, climate change, Hannah Crafts, ethics of care, Our Nig, Harriet Wilson

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