Road Kill: Commodity Fetishism and Structural Violence

Dennis Soron

Abstract


The rapid proliferation of roads and vehicles in North America over the past several decades has made the problem of roadkill so acute that, setting aside the meat industry, automobile collisions now surpass hunting as the leading human cause of vertebrate mortality. Unfortunately, roadkill is still a largely overlooked problem that has not been seriously taken up by major animal-rights or environmental organizations. In the absence of any coherent moral or political discourse addressing the problem, commodity culture itself has effectively been delegated the task of reckoning with the carnage, generating a huge array of roadkill novelty goods that offer the animal’s desecrated body up for consumption as a comic spectacle of abasement and domination. Attempting to rectify this absence, this paper employs the notion of commodity fetishism to examine roadkill both as the flashpoint for collective anxieties surrounding the status of animals in consumer culture, and as a window onto broader structural problems arising from the spread of automobile-oriented transportation systems over the past century.

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