From Conflict to Coexistence: A Study on the Impact of Cultural Norms on Human-Liminal Animal Relationships

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Brouwer, Daphne
Liminal Animals , Cultural Norms , Beavers , Urban Animals , Human-Animal Conflict , Coexistence
Humans and animals have complicated relationships. Nowhere is this as clear as in the case of liminal animals – animals who are neither fully domesticated nor wild. Although some liminal animals are welcomed by humans, many are not, and instead face the threat of being killed or expelled from their living spaces. Starting from the premise that liminal animals should have rights that protect them from this form of exclusion, this dissertation discusses the dominant factors underlying the exclusion of liminal animals. It focuses in particular on the cultural norms that people have about liminal animals – on how liminal animals are (mis)represented in the cultural imaginaries of different societies – and argues that these cultural norms around liminal animals must be studied to provide a necessary foundation for human-liminal animal coexistence. Based on a review of over 150 studies of human-liminal animal relationships, three broad categories of negative cultural norms are identified: liminal animals are excluded as being ‘out of place’, a ‘disruption’, or a ‘threat’. The review, however, also points to the existence of more positive cultural norms, often based on ideas of kinship, which can contribute to human-liminal animal coexistence. What this review shows is that the exclusionary treatment of liminal animals is not necessary, and that a change in norms around liminal animals is needed if liminal animals are to be treated differently. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the Kingston Mountain Bike Club’s evolving relationship with beavers, and how this supports the possibility of moving from exclusion to coexistence.
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