The concept of 'modernity' is central to many disciplines, but what is modernity to animals? Susan Nance answers this question through a radical reinterpretation of the life of Jumbo the elephant. In the 1880s, consumers, the media, zoos, circuses and taxidermists, and (unknowingly) Jumbo himself, transformed the elephant from an orphan of the global ivory trade and zoo captive into a distracting international celebrity. Citizens on two continents imaged Jumbo as a sentient individual and pet, but were aghast when he died in an industrial accident and his remains were absorbed by the taxidermic and animal rendering industries reserved for anonymous animals. The case of Jumbo exposed the 'human dilemma' of modern living, wherein people celebrated individual animals to cope or distract themselves from the wholesale slaughter of animals required by modern consumerism.
Susan Nance is Associate Professor of History and affiliated faculty with the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph, Canada. She has authored various articles and books, including Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus (2013), and The Historical Animal (2015).
Introduction: Modernity for Animals?
1. Jumbo: Sentient Animal Celebrity
2. Jumbo: Tourist and Consumer
3. Jumbo: Carcass, Relic, Toy
Conclusion: From Jumbo to Knut