Animal Modernity: Jumbo the Elephant and the Human Dilemma
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.