Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Making 'place' for animals
In order to identify better the past and any future place of the wolf in the
Adirondacks, it is first necessary to examine the place of the wolf as it has existed in
the American imagination. Only recently have the social sciences begun seriously to
consider animals as significant and symbolic agents within the socio-cultural milieu.
An introduction to the novel 'place' that geographical and social theory are currently
making for non-humans is, therefore, an appropriate entry-point into the following
Until very recently, there was no 'place' for animals in social theory, discourse or
analysis. Their contribution to landscape meaning and definition, and to our
understanding of 'nature' in general, tended to be overlooked or dismissed entirely.
When mentioned at all, animals were often framed as 'conscienceless' actors in the
capitalist chain of production (e.g. Smith 1984), or, more recently, lumped together
within the ambiguous and increasingly contentious term 'biodiversity' (e.g. Katz
1998). Reflecting on this phenomenon, Shepard (1996:9) posits that the current
absence of (wild) animals from social science discourse, in general, and from
American consciousness, specifically, is attributable to their 'physical absence (in the
landscape) and our shifted attention (to more pressing problems), as though we had
lost both the opportunity and the ability to see them'. In their absence, we have
been forced to draw upon representations of (wild) animals as they are depicted by
and through various media (e.g. zoos, books, television, film, etc.) for our
construction of and application of meaning to these non-human 'others' (Anderson
1998; Wilson 1992).
Recently, however, the inability or unwillingness on the part of the social sciences
to acknowledge or to consider animals as legitimate components and constitutive
agents of the socio-physical landscape has been problematised and addressed by
human, especially feminist, geographers and theorists who find this oversight
indicative of deeper, more insidious biases within the social sciences generally (e.g.
Anderson 1995; Whatmore and Thorne 1998; Wolch and Emel 1998; see also
Shepard 1996). These writers expose animals as fundamental to our socio-cultural
constructions of self and 'other' (Anderson 1995, 1998; Elder et al. 1998; Emel
1995; Haraway 1989; Ohnuki-Tierney 1991; Shepard 1996), and identify them as
fellow landscape participants that are central to our perception of and application of
meaning to place and space (Gullo et al. 1998; Philo 1995; Whatmore and Thorne
1998; Wolch 1996).
Paralleling the emergence of animals within social discourse has been a
fundamental reshaping and reconsideration of the physical and imagined landscape
by a conservation ideology currently attracted by the idea and the potential of
wildlife 'restoration'. This emerging paradigm (see Baldwin et al. 1994) is premised
upon the ecologico-political process of 'bringing the animals back in' (cf. Wolch and
Emel 1995), both materially (physically) and figuratively (symbolically). However,
as stated previously, this 'bringing back in' or 'reintroduction' of animals into the
socio-physical landscape presupposes the existence of a 'place' where both the
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