Our team prepared a roundtable discussion for the Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA) on September 19-22, 2018. Check out other sessions here and join us in Vienna!
The “Wild” (beyond the) West? Human-animal relations and the shifting frontier of ‘wilderness’
The “Bewildering Boar (BB): Changing Cosmopolitics of the Hunt in Europe and Beyond” is an incubator project within the TANDEM program of the CEFRES (http://www.cefres.cz/en/cefres). Its general aim is to develop the study of human-animal relations in the European context, while exploring, more specifically, the multiple controversies existing around wild boars. Eurasian wild pigs (Sus scrofa) feature regularly in European public discourse, for their numbers have been rising spectacularly across the continent. While in some parts of Europe this species generates sympathy, in others humans have declared war on wild boars. Debates revolving around them are often related to local definitions of “wilderness”. Just how “wild” are wild boars, given that, like other game animals in Europe, they are subject to a number of management practices on the part of humans that seem to alter their very “nature”?
For this roundtable, members of the BB project invite reflections on the shifting frontier of wilderness that allow for comparison of local definitions of the “wild” in so-called “Western” and “non-Western” contexts alike. What changes are observable in our perception of animals as they continuously break the naturalized behavioral boundaries that underpin our epistemological distinction between “wilderness” and “domesticity”? How can wilderness be conceptualized not only in relation to animals but also to land, wildlife management practices, human-animal conflict, and biosecurity? Can this vision further bewilder the static division between “the West and all the rest” or between “naturalist ontologies” (Descola, 2005) and other ones? We suggest that multispecies lenses allow for a new understanding of human-animal relations and their changing boundaries in a cross-ethnographic, comparative sense.
We foresee this roundtable format as yet another way to make VANDA a special kind of event. We propose that, once the organizers have a list of accepted papers, we go through it and select three or four that are relevant for the proposed roundtable theme. We then contact the authors and invite them to take part in the roundtable, along with the representatives of the BB team. Together we hope to initiate an engaging debate around the (shifting) frontier of wilderness in human-animal relations.