RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2012

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23 Wanted, Dead or Alive: Critical Geographies of Human-Animal Encounters (2): Alive?
Convenor(s) Daniel Allen (Independent Scholar)
Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Robert Hearn (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Chair(s) Daniel Allen (Independent Scholar)
Timetable Tuesday 03 July 2012, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Appleton Tower - Room 2.04
Session abstract The emergence of a ‘more-than-human geographies’ approach to the natural world has seen the dissolution of nature-culture binaries, challenged understandings of “the animal”, and heightened the appreciation of hybridity and subjectivities. Despite these important developments, it has been suggested that ‘something is lost’ with this analysis; and the danger of denying difference altogether remains (Castree, 2003). As Philo (2005: 829) reflects: ‘might it not be that the animals – in detail, up close, face-to-face, as it were – still remain somewhat shadowy presences? They are animating the stories being told, but in their individuality – as different species, even as individuals – they stay in the margins.’

This ambitious session strives to reconsider the original aims of the new animal geographies project, documenting all manner of encounters between humans and animals, showing the spatiality of human-animal orderings, and revealing how such relationships shaped ideas, practices and identities throughout history (Philo and Wilbert, 2001). The session welcomes papers engaging with human-animal encounters in secure places, landscapes of defence, spaces of security and insecurity. Possible topics could include: animals in warfare, detection species at home and in the workplace, animals as both forms of security for and devourers of property, encounters with dangerous species (captivity, taming, killing), securing indigenous and endangered species populations, animal protection through welfare and rights. The session will showcase the rich variety of human-animal research in social, cultural and historical geography. By bringing together ‘retold stories’ (H. Lorimer, 2005) and ‘responsible anthropologies’ (Johnston, 2008) it is hoped this session will keep non-human animals out of the shadows of marginality, and also help secure ongoing contributions from the field of animal geography.

This session has been organised with support from the Animal Geography Research Network.

Linked Sessions Wanted, Dead or Alive: Critical Geographies of Human-Animal Encounters (1): Dead?
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2012@rgs.org
Critical Animal Geographies and Anarchist Praxis: a call to move beyond the animal “question” and toward the animal “condition”
Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Defining what is "critical" in critical animal studies Pederson and Stanescu (2011:ix) recently argued that critical animal studies shift the perspective away from the animal "question" and move toward understanding the animal "condition". The animal condition they argue is: "the actual life situation of most nonhuman animals in human society and culture, as physically and emotionally experienced with it routine repertoire of violence, deprivation, desperation, agony, apathy, suffering, and death."

Inspired by developments in the burgeoning field of critical animal studies, this paper argues that bringing non-human animals out of the shadows of marginality should only be done so with a firm commitment toward exploring and responding to the animal "condition". Indeed an injection of "the critical" in animal geography at this time is both urgent and vital.

In additional to this appeal, the paper argues strongly that many (critical) animal geographers should look to engage constructively with anarchist theory and praxis as both a practical and radical framework with which to better (a) problematise human power and human species identity and (b) confront, challenge and subvert the often exploitative and violent interlocking systems that underpin the treatment of both humans and other animals in society. The will develop this argument by drawing on the key writings of anarchist geographers such as Peter Kropotkin and Elisee Reclus as well as other prominent anarchists including Giovanni Baldelli, Simone Weil and Henry David Thoreau.
Face-to-face at the zoo: are animals passive objects of observation?
Jean Estebanez (École Normale Supérieure, France)
In this paper, I focus on zoos as important places where politics of human-animal encounter unfold. Literature is harsh on zoos: they are presented as sorts of prisons where animals are victims or passive objects of observation, denied any autonomy (Berger, 1980; Malamud, 1998). My key argument is that we should consider the agentivity and individuality of zoo animals because it help us understand the success of zoos and why human-animal relationships matter.

First, I will show that animals are actors. Born in zoos, their everyday life is about encounter with humans. Some animals may choose to cooperate by paying attention or playing with the public. Some may surprise or scare us by doing things we do not expect. Some may even sleep or just do nothing. By not acting accordingly to our expectations they make us to think them differently.

Then, I will argue that agency is key to understand human-animal relationships. My field work shows that visitors try to negotiate boundaries to get the attention of animals. They may yell, try to feed them or even touch them. The public looks for signs of agentivity that give animals a position of significant others (e.g. different from a stone or even a plant). People may be bored or disappointed at the zoo, but occasional euphoria and emotion show that it does matter for us. Zoos are not (only?) places of division and hierarchy but a testing ground to experiment the pleasure of difference.
"He brings back the laughter"- the emotional exchanges between Albin, a Bernese mountain dog, and nursing home residents in Germany
Bettina van Hoven (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Jaap van Hoven (-)
Sarah Rethmann (-)
In this paper, I focus on encounters between Albin, a four-year old Bernese mountain dog, and residents in a nursing home in Germany. Albin visits these residents weekly as a volunteer with his owner, Jaap. These visits were initiated by the owner and are not a part of an institutional animal-assisted therapy programme.
Some of the humans concerned in this paper are lonely, depressed, suffer from age-related illnesses and the notion of old age itself. Although they reside in a 'secure' institutional context, I would argue that this institutional context also brings insecurities in particular with regards to physical and emotional care work. Therefore, after briefly contextualising Albin's work in the literature on animal-assisted therapy, I begin to explain the significance of Albin's being with the nursing home residents drawing on writings exploring 'the abject', 'the tactile' and 'affect'.

Having said so, my presentation is meant to be largely descriptive as I aim to pass on the emotional exchange between dog and human. In so doing, I use narratives and photographs collected during several visits to the nursing home to illustrate the relationship between Albin and the older adults he connects with.
ASBO Elephants: tags, tolerance and the language of delinquency
Bill Adams (University of Cambridge, UK)
Max Graham (Space for Giants, Kenya)
In rural Kenya, encounters between wild elephants and smallholder farmers are intermittent but mutually disruptive. Wildlife managers speak of crop raiding and ‘human-elephant conflict’, and ‘problem elephants’ are routinely killed. Increasingly, territory is conceptually and physically divided into spaces where elephants are tolerated by human land users, and spaces where they are not.

In Laikipia County in north-central Kenya, a long electrified fence has been built to try to keep areas of small farms secure from elephants. However, this cordon sanitaire is imperfect, and elephants regularly break the fence and raid protected farms. Local wildlife managers have systems to identify these animals, and speak of them individually using highly anthropomorphic language. The non-governmental organisation Space for Giants (http://spaceforgiants.org/) has tagged five elephants known to cross fences, using radio-collars with a global positioning system. This makes it possible to a monitor their movements in near real time, and potentially to enforce the security of the fence.

This paper will describe the encounters between elephants and people associated with crop raiding, tagging and fence-breaking and enforcement, and consider the way elephants that ignore no-go areas are described.