Home    Number 1, 2021

Rat and the Binaries of Modernity

[Krysa protiv binarnoi logiki sovremennosti]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954150013595-4

Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 21.10.20

Accepted: 15.12.20

About author(s)

Gabriela Jarzebowska | https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9678-2163 | gabriela.jarzebowska@al.uw.edu.pl | University of Warsaw (69 Nowy Świat, 00-330 Warsaw, Poland)


rats, modernization, wastewater, sanitary discourse, animal studies, dirt, dualism, pests, animals


The article traces the processes of how the contemporary rat status was formed within dualisms constructed by the project of modernity. Even though the animal can be viewed as a nearly perfect manifestation of this project, I argue that, paradoxically enough, it may simultaneously be a manifestation of the project’s failure, if not its greatest nonhuman victim, considering the rate at which the extermination of rats has been proceeding. My aim is to show that, although these animals had been considered as “pests” for centuries, their contemporary symbolic status stems from a number of naturecultural conditions, such as the formation of capitalist economy, urbanization processes, sanitary discourse and creation of a dualism between the wild and the laboratory rats. Recognizing the processes which formed a status of a rat as a taboo in the Western culture seems to be important for redefining modernist paradigms.


Jarzebowska, G. 2021. Rat and the Binaries of Modernity [Krysa protiv binarnoi logiki sovremennosti]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 1: 55–63. https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954150013595-4

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