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Boundary Affects: Race, Gender, Sex, and Species in the U.S. "War on Terror"


Contemporary public discourses in the United States about the “war on terror” are pervaded by cultural discourses of human-animal intimacy set in contexts of nationalism, humanitarianism and militarism: specifically discourses of American “puppy love” and Middle Eastern “hatred of dogs.” These two intimately interconnected discourses work to shift boundaries between human and animal: one set of discourses dehumanizes everyone positioned as potential “terrorists”—including people in Iraq and Afghanistan figured as “enemy others”; the other set of discourses humanizes military working dogs and dogs adopted from Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering these discourses together highlights how the boundary between human and animal is unstable and intimately connected to gendered and sexualized processes of racialization deployed for political purposes. The shifting value ascribed to some dogs’ lives in the “war on terror” emerges at the nexus of the racialized, gendered and sexualized discourses of human exceptionalism and orientalism, working to iteratively reproduce unstable boundaries.

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