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Date of this Version



Published in Science as Culture, 22:3 (2013), pp. 291–313.



Copyright © 2013 Process Press; published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


The pedigree chart is a cornerstone technology for producing bodies and value in livestock pure breeding. It organizes a cluster of processes, technologies, and discourses gathered under the rubric “pedigree practices.” Angus breeders commonly use artificial insemination to import performance “genetics” into their herds, using the “expected progeny differences” predicted by massive pedigree databases that now also contain phenotype data reported by cattle growers. Discourses of biological inheritance, good breeding, and pedigrees arose in the eighteenth century, concomitant with a fascination with races, species, and other biological kinds. A case study from Angus cattle breeding illustrates pedigree practices and the bodies made through them, showing how information and computing technologies, assisted reproductive technologies, and discourses of good breeding, purity, health, and disease leveraged a single bull and the two genetic diseases he carried into the pedigrees of up to 10% of the Angus herd. Technologies now widely used in human reproductive medicine were developed for use in livestock animals, especially cattle, extending a long relationship between cows and humans. While the development of these pedigree practices represents increased control over animal reproduction and bodies, it has also been instrumental in rendering all animal bodies, including human bodies, not only more technically but also more rhetorically available for reproductive interventions. These interventions may amplify anxieties about health, species, breed, and kin while also providing opportunities for contesting the boundaries of these nature–cultural categories.