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Type: Thesis
Title: To Make Their Journey Back To Nature: Zoo Captivity and Post / Humanism
Author: Wright, Gail Yvonne
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: Humans detain Other species in zoos for various publicly stated reasons. In this way, zoo captives are entangled within human rationalities. The Adelaide Zoo’s mission statement expresses utopian ideals of conservation and connection, which it aims to achieve through combating the dystopian realities of Other species extinction and human separation from nature. This binary is formulated through the western belief system of humanism, a dualistic rationality, which is used by the zoo to explain its purpose. In this dualism, humans are superior, in control, and progressing, while all Other matter/s are ranked, and compartmentalised, as lesser. Based on fieldwork at the Adelaide Zoo from July 2011 to December 2013 my research examines the representations of zooing and claims of control and progress. To research western humanism, I employ four key theorists: Val Plumwood, an eco-feminist philosopher; Tim Ingold, a relational anthropologist (my categorisation); Karen Barad, a feminist physicist and Gregory Bateson an eco-anthropologist-scientist. These theorists utilise relational, connected systems to explain western miscalculations / conceptions about reality, that is, a posthuman perspective. I also draw on the work of a number of other pertinent scholars. Western humanism organises zooing, but zoo-workers (paid and unpaid) demonstrated relational comprehensions about life at the zoo, for themselves and captives. The captives also demonstrated divergent becomings from those officially narrated. My Baradian intra-actions with captives, including Bears, Superb Lyrebirds, a Cassowary, South American Primates, Lions and Tigers, and one sonically-beautiful little brown bird, are all documented here. I attended the Adelaide Zoo as volunteer and ethnographer, enjoying the experience of observing hands-on keeping, and participating in volunteering. My research included observing, participating, interviewing and hanging out with people, as well as burrowing through the current and historical trails of official and unofficial narratives, within which the multi-non-linear connections between past, present, and hoped-for-future zooing, emerged. The disparity between humanist and posthumanist perspectives is foundational to understanding zoo conservation efforts, and how people are entangled in zooing. A key contention developed within the thesis is the tension between the representation/s of zooing and the experienced life emergences of zooing; that is, the possibility of performing zooing alternately. At the zoo, representations are utilised to explain zooing to the populace, where representations allow the appearance of movement, or change, in the stasis that is captivity. By reading each key theorist through my research, the mechanisms of western humanism clearly cohered into a perceivable, yet questionable, rationale. I argue that western dualistic essentialism, as a pathway to knowledge, has overshadowed, but not abolished, relational thinking, where connectivity and recursivity — that is response ability — better explains matter/s reality. In this thesis I articulate humanism to humanists, by making perceptible what often goes without thought, the normative values and beliefs of my culture, along with the mechanisms by which these are implicated in the processes and practices of zooing.
Advisor: Herner, Susan
Skuse, Andrew
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2020
Keywords: Zoo
western humanism
Provenance: This thesis is currently under Embargo and not available.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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