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philosophical literatures. Within abstract non-space, it is the individual human
subject which has often been the basis for normative ethical principles, and for the
social structures which have sprung from this such as democratic principles, many
religious and legal codes, and global initiatives such as the UN Human Rights
pronouncements. It is painfully clear that there are all too many cataclysmic
examples of the failure or disregard of this principle within intra-human relations,
and this to some extent at least has been the focus of attention for much critically
oriented geography (Proctor 1998).
As soon as these universalised and individualised aspects are taken from ethical
consideration, as they have been in human—non-human ethical relations,
unevenness, including spatial unevenness, is inevitable. There is also the possibility
of a chronic dissipation of tension between practice and any norms which do exist,
because of the evasions, omissions and confusions which can occur within these
fragmented arrangements. This had led to a situation where the ethical dimension
of many human—non-human relations, and the complex geographies of those
relations, have remained unexamined. Often the ethics of commonplace
interactions between human and non-humans are conceptually rooted in
relationships between and within populations or groupings of some kind, and this in
turn adds to a deeply uneven spatialisation of both normative and lived ethical
Various considerations of the position of nature within modernity, or more
narrowly of animals, show how nature and animals have generally been 'eclipsed in
orthodox ethical discourse' (Whatmore 1997:37). Serpell (1996:218), in his
account of the shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculturalist-based societies, shows
how the rendering ethically invisible of the non-human other was a key manoeuvre
within processes of modernisation:
[T]he entire system [agriculture] depends on the subjugation of nature, and
the domination and manipulation of living creatures. It is likely that this new
relationship with animals and nature, with its conflicting combination of
intimacy and enslavement, generated intense feelings of guilt…. Faced with
this conflict, new ideologies were required, ideologies that absolved farming
people from blame and enabled them to continue their remorseless programme
of expansion and subjugation with a clear conscience. Different societies
adopted different ideologies, some more expedient than others. But, if the
record of civilisation is anything to go by, it was the most ruthless cultures—
the ones with the most effective distancing devices—who prospered most of
Ingold (1988:15), in considering Tapper's account of the shift from a hunter
economy to pastoralism and further into modernity in the form of 'modern factory
farming', feels that within this process 'the animal moves from being a strange
person to a familiar thing'. This positioning of non-human others in general
becomes reflected in terms of normative ethics, where, as Clark (1977:5) states,
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