The Animal Subaltern: Performing Race and Species in East Africa


ACLS Fellowship Program


English and Theater Arts


"The Animal Subaltern: Performing Race and Species in East Africa" is a cultural history of the category of the human. It focuses on the techniques employed by white scientists, artists, and government officials during the colonial period in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to safeguard their power by creating a category of sub-political semi-being to which to consign nearly every form of life that surrounded them. This category, the animal subaltern, was metonymically bound up with the very idea of the “wild” that the colonial state was determined to master. The contiguity it established and policed between game animals, pre-human hominins, and “natives” had a pervasive, if uneven, racializing effect: all these beings became Black. In the post- Second World War struggle for political, cultural, and economic independence in East Africa, members of the animal subaltern contested their exclusion from the category of the human. Most of the book is taken up with their struggle to reassert their humanity – or to disavow it in favor of something else.