Capitalizing nature. Animals and the creation of value

This panel aims to reflect on the social, cultural, symbolic, and economic capital (Bourdieu) of animals throughout history. Because the history of capitalism focuses on industrialization, mass production and technical innovation, animals scarcely appear in economic historical studies. Animals are central to trade history, the history of valorization and the history of representation. With the increase of commercial exchange in the age of expansion and due to the establishment of global trading networks, animals were increasingly transported, and in some cases transplanted across continents. Dead or alive, as whole or in parts, as prey, ressource or representation animals were marketized. As commodity, food, consumption or object of scientific interest animals were valued by humans. With the panel’s focus on the creation of value, our contributions adopt a cultural perspective in order to analyse the different values attached to animal beings in specific contexts.

The first contribution, by Dr. Eva Brugger, will focus on the way Europeans and First Nations valued beavers in the seventeenth century North America. The paper discusses the different forms of beaver appearance (prey, resource, commodity, fashion) and put emphasizes on the transformation of value due to the processing state of beaver.

The second contribution, by Lou Jacquemet (PhD student), will focus on the multiple processes of reification of « exotic animals » by owners, scientists and the public in traveling menageries in Europe, using nineteenth century Geneva as a case study.

One slot for a paper presentation ist still free.