Accepted Paper:

Bridging the culture-nature clash in human and wildlife entanglements  


Margaret McKenna (ConTEXT)
John Levesque (King County, Washington, USA)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the spatial dimensions, values, and social norms related to a contemporary nature-culture clash evident in the human-wildlife conflicts that occur in many developed communities where human-made structures of wildlife bridges have been built to protect humans and wildlife.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropologists have studied interactions between humans and domesticated animals; however, the interactions between humans and wild animal species, referred to as human-wildlife conflicts, call for study. Human-wildlife conflicts occur when humans and animals are in territorial proximity such as human settlements in forest-edge regions where wild animals historically roamed but have now become the intruders that challenge the humans. An anthropological view of space is that it is divided into animal and human spheres, which leads to the social understanding that animals or humans may be in or out of their respective environs, then cross a spatial boundary in a culture-nature conflict. Human- made barriers such as multi-lane highways have fragmented animal habitat, which has led to detrimental impacts that include increased animal and human mortality due to wildlife-vehicle collisions, decreased quality of animal habitat, and divided vulnerable wildlife sub-populations. These outcomes have pressured engineers to mitigate the effects through construction of structures known as wildlife crossings, above or under roadways to facilitate safe wildlife movement, increase the amount of habitat for animal species, and reduce habitat fragmentation. The development of wildlife crossings has brought out individuals' opposing positions based on underlying values related to wildlife. Wildlife crossings are a modern day exhibit of the culture-nature clash and have generated new social norms about what wildlife interactions are acceptable in some spaces, what meanings are attached to these experiences, and what financial investments should be made to protect wildlife and save human lives in light of human-wildlife entanglements.

Panel BH15
Querying domestication: the ethnography of human-animal entanglements