CEH Virtual Seminar with Erica von Essen and Kieran O’Mahony
This seminar was part of the Centre for Environmental Humanities’ autumn series, ‘Saving European Nature: Longing for Landscapes Past.’
See more information about their talks below or on CEH’s website.
Erica von Essen – The War on Boars: How Wild Boar Hunting is Becoming a Battleground of Necropolitics
It is said that animals are good to ‘think with’. In this talk, we think with the wild boar. I use the wild boar and the war on boars as a heuristic for understanding current societal values and risk portfolios in relation to biosecurity. The war on boars does not merely passively reflect a state of affairs; it is also catalyzing changes in society. First, it is forging unanticipated alliances between interest groups, like animal rights activists and hunters opposing inhumane trapping directives for boars. Second, it is driving wedges between previous allies, like hunters and farmers, between whom the responsibility for boar management is contested. Third, it is changing the practices and livelihoods of people affected by wild boars.
In this talk, a bottom-up empirical approach is promoted for studying what I term ‘the war on boars’. This mean moving from the level of supranational and national directives on biodiversity to seeing how on-the-ground practices of adapting, implementing or resisting biosecurity measures are played out among hunters, cullers, and farmers. I indicate that insofar as the war on boars represents a necropolitical regime of killing to protect other forms of life, it shows a ruptured and contested regime subject. Indeed, there is some difficulty to reconciling biosecurity agendas with hunters and landowners’ traditional practices and knowledge of doing things in the countryside. I place culling of wild boars in a broader context of biosecuritization, including spatial, temporal and technological measures to protect the interest of native biota, agriculture, pork production and public health. The talk concludes by critically discussing the implications of what is quickly becoming a command-and-control, militarized model of wildlife management in times where laissez-faire rewilding approaches have been championed as the future for conservation.
Kieran O’Mahony – From sheepscapes to swinescapes: presences, absences and feral transitions in the Forest of Dean, England
Over recent decades, unofficial (re)introductions of wild boar have churned hegemonic framings of nonhuman belonging in the UK. This presentation focuses on the situation in the Forest of Dean, located on the English-Welsh border, where a flourishing population have significantly reconfigured more-than-human relations as they have snuffled, snouted and snorted through forest, agricultural and village space. As their material visibility has increased, so too has the diversity of lives, objects and technologies gathered together by their disruptive presence and mobilities: forest sheep, dogs, domestic pigs, bracken, viruses, bluebells, soils, digital cameras, thermal imaging sensors, and rifles. These all feed into an ongoing tension that not only draws out the controversial politics of culling, but also the ways this unexpected, feral transition evokes different imaginaries of the past, present and future. Key to this presentation, therefore, is to foreground how the affective capacities of both nonhuman presence and absence can alter cultural landscapes and the nature of place.