Death Matters pp 241-263 | Cite as

To Make Pets Live, and To Let Them Die: The Biopolitics of Pet Keeping

  • David RedmalmEmail author


Pets are often considered to be friends or part of the nuclear family, and many pets are grieved when they die. But pets are also routinely bred in abundance, bought, sold, and euthanized when they are unwanted. The aim of this chapter is to suggest a way of understanding pet keeping in the light of pets’ paradoxical status between “grievable” and “killable.” It argues that the ambiguous conceptualization of the pet as an irreplaceable individual and as a consumable resource corresponds to a biopolitical rationale for breeding, buying, selling, and killing pets. This chapter suggests that pet keeping can be regarded as a demarcated zone where biopolitical norms surrounding life and death can be played with, managed, and reproduced.


Anthropocentrism Bereavement Biopolitics Companion animals Human-animal studies 



I want to thank Mary Shannon Johnstone for kindly giving me permission to use her photos. I am also immensely grateful to the editors of this volume for their thorough and thoughtful feedback at several stages of the writing process. Furthermore, I received invaluable suggestions from the members of the HumAnimal Group at the Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University. This chapter was written as an extension of the research project Intimate Sociality, funded by the Swedish Research Council (no. 421-2014-1465). It is an expansion of ideas that I originally presented in a short text in Swedish in the journal Fronesis (no. 56–7, 2017).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mälardalen UniversityVästeråsSweden

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