“Iberians are different”

On Breed, Power, and Queer Subversion


  • Christian Gundermann Mount Holyoke College Author




Iberian horse, modernity, modernization, baroque, breed, purity, progress, power


Historically, Iberian breeds were considered the height of perfection, but with the development of the Thoroughbred (the embodiment of enlightened modernity) they increasingly were aligned with Spanish obsolescence. However, this dichotomy is too simple and often incorrect. As this paper illustrates, the Spanish Pure Breed itself is the outcome of a major modernization effort in the sixteenth century, linked to the Spanish colonial empire’s own early modernity. Furthermore, “modernizing” attempts continue to shape the breed as breeders and breed organizations attempt to meet the demands of the sport horse market, emulating the success of the modern sport horse breeds. Thus, as this paper argues, within complex temporal interactions between older and newer forms of modernity, the resurgence of older, presumably superseded, projects presents a kind of queer subversion of the temporal narratives of progress, modernity, and modernization. This subversion is instantiated in the present moment by the traditional Iberian horse (as the product and icon of an older, presumably superseded form of modernity). As a natureculture, this older modernity reverberates not only as a cultural investment but also as a “natural” resurgence of genetic diversity and multiplicity. This article theorizes the marginalized early modernities of Spain and Portugal in their baroque colonial multiplicities, and thereby rewrites the way European modernity has been understood.


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Author Biography

  • Christian Gundermann, Mount Holyoke College

    Having been raised by horses, Christian Gundermann became a scholar and teacher of cultural studies, languages, and theories to other humans. He now teaches Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College, and specializes in Critical Animal Studies, Feminist Science Studies, and the study of health. His horses have helped him conceptualize and articulate a number of biomedical issues at the boundaries of human and equine existence, such as metabolic, autoimmune, infectious, and allergic conditions which resulted in two sibling pieces titled “Reading Bloodwork Is an Art Form” (Catalyst 3.2, 2017) and “Equine/Human Lyme Embodiments: Towards a Feminist Ecology of Entangled Becomings” (Humanimalia 10.2, 2019). Both articles question scientific reductionism through the stories of two of his equine companions and their illnesses. He is currently working on writing projects about the role of genetic testing in shaping human–equine relationships, and the entanglements of genetics, seropositivity, autoimmunity, and state power in the Covid crisis. He is owned by a handful of Iberian horses, his current, future, and past training and riding partners. For and with them, he studies the literature of classical, particularly French, dressage.




How to Cite

“‘Iberians Are different’: On Breed, Power, and Queer Subversion”. 2023. Humanimalia 13 (2): 47–84. https://doi.org/10.52537/humanimalia.13274.