Reproducing Dominion: Emotional Apprenticeship in the 4-H Youth Livestock Program

In: Society & Animals
Leslie Irvine University of Colorado, Email:

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Colter Ellis University of Colorado

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This paper examines young people’s socialization into the doctrine known as “dominionism,” which justifies the use of animals in the service of human beings. Using qualitative research, it focuses on the 4-H youth livestock program, in which boys and girls raise cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep for slaughter. The analysis portrays 4-H as an apprenticeship in which children learn to do cognitive emotion work, use distancing mechanisms, and create a “redemption” narrative to cope with contradictory ethical and emotional experiences. Although this paper focuses on young people’s relationships with animals, and particularly with types of animals that have received little scholarly attention, the conclusions have implications for understanding the reproduction of inequalities, more generally. An understanding of the means through which people learn to justify the treatment of the animals known as “livestock” can shed light on the mechanisms involved in generic processes of inequality.

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