Where the Wild Things Are Now: Domestication Reconsidered

Where the Wild Things Are Now: Domestication Reconsidered

Where the Wild Things Are Now: Domestication Reconsidered

Where the Wild Things Are Now: Domestication Reconsidered

Synopsis

Domestication has often seemed a matter of the distant past, a series of distinct events involving humans and other species that took place long ago. Today, as genetic manipulation continues to break new barriers in scientific and medical research, we appear to be entering an age of biological control. Are we also writing a new chapter in the history of domestication? Where the Wild Things Are Now explores the relevance of domestication for anthropologists and scholars in related fields who are concerned with understanding ongoing change in processes affecting humans as well as other species. From the pet food industry and its critics to salmon farming in Tasmania, the protection of endangered species in Vietnam and the pigeon fanciers who influenced Darwin, Where the Wild Things Are Now provides an urgently needed re-examination of the concept of domestication against the shifting background of relationships between humans, animals and plants.

Excerpt

Rebecca Cassidy

The wilderness as a beleaguered space and contested concept has received a great deal of attention in the writings of environmental historians including William Cronon and others (1995; Crosby 1986, 1994; Oelschlaeger 1993; Schama 1995; Worster 1977, 1994). According to Cronon, the idea of wilderness employed by many environmentalists perpetuates distinctions between society and nature, human and animal, and domesticated and wild. Anthropologists have long recognized that these distinctions are anything but obvious and immutable, and that their most powerful incarnations arise from the enlightenment thinking described by Latour (1993). the idea that the authentic wild is somehow “out there” occupying space that is untouched by human influence distorts understandings of places that are not out of time, or out of space. Numerous ethnographies of national parks and other “wild” spaces have shown that they are imbricated within complex national, regional, and international spheres of influence (see, e.g., Brockington 2002; Neumann 1999; Walley 2004; for an excellent overview of this work see Borgerhoff Mulder and Copolillo 2005). the idea of “wilderness” has successfully been complicated in such a way as to put the social back into the wild (MacNaughton and Urry 1998; Whatmore 2002). However, less attention has been paid to the other side of this equation, the domesticated.

In anthropological lore, domestication was an event that took place between 10 and 12 thousand years ago, at which time a transition took place, from savagery to barbarianism (Morgan 1877), private property was created and womankind was universally defeated (Engels . . .

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