Abstract

At the outset of the twenty-first century, chimpanzees have become the first nonhuman great ape species to achieve substantial protections in the form of state-recognized legal rights and care programs. In the United States, this development has been institutionalized by the 2000 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act, which established the first federally funded system of animal asylum in order to provide humane care for chimpanzees who have been “retired” from state-funded medical research. While the phasing out of chimpanzee research and the federal funding of chimpanzee sanctuaries was heralded by animal activists and primate conservationists, state recognition of ethical duties toward chimpanzees results from complex set of changes in biomedical research, ethological knowledge, and neoliberal governance that limit the use of chimpanzees for budgetary and technical as well as ethical reasons. Based on our interviews with paid workers at one nonprofit sanctuary, we argue that the national chimpanzee sanctuary project stakes the possibility of justice for nonhuman animals exploited in projects of imperial technoscience on a neoliberal ethic of care. Idealizing recognition of animal minds and empathetic connections to humans, the state profits from the undervaluation of the feminized labor at chimpanzee sanctuaries. Out of these constraints, we argue that the improvisational practices of care and enrichment negotiated on a daily basis between female careworkers and captive chimpanzees articulate a vision of justice that differs fundamentally from rights- and conservation-based models resting on universal conceptions of life, rights, or freedom. The sanctuary workers resist collapsing the project of the sanctuary into global rights frameworks; they instead attend to the complexity and limits of affective relation within the “surplus time” of postresearch captivity. These practices of care-awaiting-death help us reflect on recent invocations of an affect-based ethic of transspecies care articulated by feminist animal studies scholars. To the extent that affective relation produces an ethical project in the chimpanzee sanctuary, it is one that resists generic analogies between race, gender, and species as well as idealized notions of care that work to sustain the neoliberal undervaluation of feminized labor.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 619-637
Launched on MUSE
2013-09-20
Open Access
No
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