I designed this course to begin by building a foundation of knowledge for what constitutes the study of animal geography. Two of the articles I chose this week come from what are considered essential basic texts in this geographical subdiscipline. The first is Animal spaces, beastly places: New geographies of human-animal relations (2000) edited by Chris Philo and Chris Wilbert. The second text is Animal Geographies: Place, politics and identity in the nature-culture borderlands (1998) edited by Jennifer Wolch and Jody Emel. I also want to mention a forthcoming book edited by Katie Gillespie & Rosemary-Claire Collard’s Critical Animal Geographies: Politics, intersections, and hierarchies in a multi-species world (2015). I am more than excited for this book and have requested my University library to obtain a copy ––
pleasures of working in a library and knowing the system!:).
I consider my approach to research multidisciplinary and was excited to see concepts from all sorts of disciplinary backgrounds in these readings. Especially concepts coming from feminist and anthropological research. I read these texts to pull out some of the main concepts that will lead my future readings so this post will read as very conceptual and straightforward.
The text in Animal Geographies (1998) is called ‘Animals, geography, and the city: Notes on inclusions and exclusions’. I thought this was a very important framework employing feminist and racial theorists concepts of bodies being included/desired and excluded/undesired. This is a very useful binary when considering what animals we see in certain spaces and places. It also carries over the politics that guide inclusionary and exclusionary policies among human populations making it also valid to politicize how these concepts play out in animal worlds.
Something I found disappointing about this text was the authors proffer of animals transgressing but steered away from animals resisting. They defined resistance has the subject having intention against an entity, whereas transgression is just a matter of wanting to be ‘noticed’. It was disappointing in that the authors sided with animals resisting but were unsure of how to articulate themselves properly.
Returning to employing the binary of exclusion and inclusion, they used the example of 19th century London’s approach to fared animals in the city. Farmed animals presence was once considered normal in all spaces whether rural, urban or in-between. However, in 19th century London there was a ‘sanitary’ movement that commented profusely on the unacceptable “smells, flies, and sights” (60) of farmed animals. The authors argue it was this movement that drove the wedge deep creating the neat boundary between urban and rural areas. This also marks a time where animals explicitly were stated to violate human space, to essentially be the ‘matter out of place’ requiring an entirely new approach to biopolitics. Meaning that farmed animals were firstly controlled genetically and behaviorally to support ‘more productive animal flesh’ and now were spatio-temporally limited.
Something I would have liked to see from this article was for the to draw upon the explicit reference to farmed animals being detested due to the ‘flies’ that swarmed their bodies. Critically practicing anti-speciesm should be attentiveness and not overlook multispecies interactions. It was not only a sanitary movement against farmed animals, but also against pesky flies and other insects that use larger animals bodies as ecosystems.
The other article I read this week is the introductory chapter to Animal Spaces, Beastly Places. This article builds upon the above reading and introduces Edward Said’s concept of ‘imaginative geographies’ which are discourses assigned to proper placements of beings supporting the colonial mind frame of ‘us’ verses ‘them’ (the ‘other’). Chris Philo and Chris Wilbert build on this by conceptualizing a spatial structuring that western society has mapped out. This conceptualization sees spaces as political in that human actors have assigned roles, meanings and memberships to space. Viewing places in such a way raises and makes visible the impenetrable boundaries. Animals, specifically animals in urban settings strattle, disregard and cross these invisible but felt boundaries that result in a plethora of responses. Typically what we see is the typical ‘wildlife management’ approach focused on managing the situation through violence and fear. Responses that consider why the animal ‘trespassed’ or the possibility that perhaps they have been co-habiting these spaces do not surface. Ideally, this course will carve out a space to bounce between both responses, with preference that the latter will become a more common response.
Both authors held the idea of animals independent of humans as capable of constructing and maintaining their own worlds. They proffer cultural geographers and other academics to rightfully consider animals as worthy subjects outside of their relationship or insight they provide to humans.
Addressing this point more heads-on is the goal of the article Methodologies for animals’ geographies: Cultures, communication and genomics’ by Timothy Hodgetts & Jamie Lorimer (2014). Both others recognize the lack of efficient methodologies in geography to approach animal geographies, however, make an argument that many of the long-standing and current methodologies can be appropriated. They identify three areas of useful methodologies: technologies, intra- and inter-specieis communication and genomics.
Technologies of monitoring and tracking are commonly used methods in geobiological and animal studies’. Yet these methods can be radicalized to consider animals themselves as informants rather than solely using humans as the soap boxes of information. Appropriations of technologies include enploying animals as their own camera crew generating data that can be translated and interpreted in a more animal-centered way. This particular point reminds me of an anthropological class I enrolled in called Visual Culture that discussed indigenous peoples using western media techniques that were/still used as western tool of colonialism and spectacle. The appropriation of a tool once used to harm can be used as a tool to amplify resistance and voice! The other technique that was mentioned was interpreting animal monitoring data beyond the population dynamics and distributions. Ingeniously, this makes use of a system already in place plus has colossal amounts of data already collected.
Both of these techniques reminded me greatly of what Kim Socha proposes of ‘negative space’ in Women, destruction & the Avante-Garde: A Paradigm for animal liberaton. Negative space is an artistic term used to describe blank space is still very much so apart of the entire space. Animals prophetically occupy negative space in human constructed spaces. This radical approach positions animals as worthy subjects outside of the saturated studies into human-animal encounters. Socha proffers this approach in an animal abolitionist perspective, in that, we should leave animals alone. Albeit, it can also serve as an approach to better articulate animals’ complex worlds, histories, sentiments and lives that function in/out/inbetween of human encounters.
Moving onto the second point proposed by Hodgetts & Lorimer focuses on intra- and inter-species communications. Right from the get-go they articulate the vital and necessity for aural and olfactory communication to be granted more attention. They also included some neat scientific and artistic experimental attempts of suffusing a inter-species communication modes. Take for example, Kira O’Reilly, an experimental performance piece. Kira, after realizes the closeness of skin texture to a pig rested with Delia, a pot-bellied beautiful girl for hours on end as an instillation. Her performance was grounded in focusing on the animal and commenting on in her first installation how her the human, and Delia the pig were merely occupying ‘different placeness’ and hence different treatments.
The final geographical methodology appropriated by the authors was using molecular markets to track history animals mobility’s. Benefits of this tool include creating a historic account of animals movements, patterns and perhaps provides a framework to discuss place and meaning for animals.
All of these points come together in what Hodgetts and Lorimer state:
By working through the material specificities of our entangled worlds they help establish the significant forms of different and the more-than- human values, knowledges and spatial practices that must be considered in recent appeals for a post-humanist cosmopolitics (2014, 7).