Accepted Paper:

The trap as a home: domination and mutualism in Gwich'in sensibilities about trapping.  


Robert Wishart (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

In playing between theories of domination and mutualism I argue that trapping is an activity that works within the movements of animals and people and within a sensibility of the land and homes.

Paper long abstract:

The Gwich'in of the Mackenzie Valley have consistently positioned trapping as a valuable exercise despite fluctuations in the price of furs. Materialist anthropological theories created an image of trapping as an activity that necessarily leads to individualism, alienation and disenchantment. The rise of anti-fur sentiments in the 1970's helped cement this imaginary of the trapper. In contrast I argue that trapping as it is practiced today is far from being an alienating practice. Indigenous trappers build their traps and trap-lines in ways that suit their pre-existing practices of movement on the land and work within the social structures of a hunting life-world today. Trappers talk about how trapping requires knowing the land and relating to the animals in respectful ways and knowing how to invite them into their traps. For the trappers I worked with, creating the correct architecture for animal 'homes' is the key to luring animals into giving themselves to the trap. In order to dispel the imaginary of the cruel, dominator of animals it is tempting to turn instead to thoughts on mutualism, but it would be difficult to argue that this activity does not require some deception. The trap can be interpreted as part of a historical continuum of design within various Northern architectures of human animal relations where the precepts of domination and mutualism are complicated by the experiences of trappers. Trapping is valued because it plays upon the signs and expectations which lie between the past and the present and between domination and mutualism

Panel LL-AE05
Materialities of human-animal movement in northern landscapes