Sara Barnes

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Washington U., St. Louis

Grant number

Gr. 9323

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

Barnes, Sara Carolyn, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Bluegrass Horsemen: Thoroughbred Trainers, Equine Biocapital, and Elite Agrarian Expertise in Kentucky's Horseracing Industry,' supervised by Dr. Peter Benson

Preliminary abstract: Since the antebellum era, Kentucky horseracing has been romanticized in the American national imagination, emblematic of sentimentalized plantation life that was eradicated in the deep South in the wake of the Civil War (Wall 2010). Yet today, declining public interest in racing, biotechnological interventions, and ethical concerns about horse welfare have problematized this commercial endeavor. As a lens into this fraught capitalist industry that creates, exploits, and risks personalized racehorse lives, I propose an ethnographic study of how racehorse trainers’ roles and relationships with horses are being challenged and renegotiated. This study places the emerging anthropology of human and companion animal engagements (Kirksey & Helmreich 2010; Haraway 2003, 2008; Mullin 1999) in the context of a biocapitalist industry–an industry that creates and harnesses lifeforms for economic gain (Franklin & Lock 2003; Sunder Rajan 2006, 2012; Rose 2001, 2006). This theoretical confluence speaks to broad anthropological questions about human-animal relations, the politics and ethics of life building, and romanticized formations of agrarian expertise.