Apiculture in the Anthropocene: Between Posthumanism and Critical Animal Studies

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This chapter identifies a paradox in the concept of the Anthropocene; a tension between its powerful rejection of notions of human transcendence of the natural world and its implicit but unmistakable call for human responsibility on a scale that presupposes such transcendence. Diagnosing this as a tension between contrasting conceptions of human agency, the one as ultimately sovereign and determinative, the other as at best partial, contingent and entangled with various nonhuman agencies, the chapter traces the same paradox through the tension between critical and posthumanist currents in human-animal studies, by working the discussion through the recent and rapid worldwide decline in honeybee populations known as Colony Collapse Disorder, stressing that this is precisely the sort of socio-ecological crisis we should expect to see more frequently in the Anthropocene. A critical animal studies approach to Colony Collapse Disorder is evaluated, with honeybees viewed as a kind of ‘livestock’ and commercial beekeeping or apiculture understood as part of an ‘animal-industrial complex’. The chapter then articulates a more posthumanist approach, which it suggests is better equipped to acknowledge the specificities of honeybees and the nuances of human-apian relations, before finally reckoning the implications of these alternative accounts of Colony Collapse Disorder back into the paradoxical notions of human agency and responsibility at the heart of the Anthropocene.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimals in the Anthropocene
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives on Non-human Futures
EditorsHuman Animal Research Network Editorial Collective
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherSydney University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781743324394, 1743324391
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Anthropocene, Environment, Animals, Agency, Responsibility, Posthumanism, Critical Animal Studies
  • Science and Nature


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