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Natural enemies: people-wildlife conflicts in anthropological perspective

Informally Refereed
Authors: John Schelhas
Year: 2004
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Human Ecology Review, Vol. 11, No. 1: 68-70


Human relationships with wildlife are complex and multifaceted. It is not uncommon for conservationists, in an effort to raise awareness and build support for biodiversity conservation, to focus on the positive side of human relations with wildlife such as the role of wild species in controlling pests and pollinating crops, sacred and totemic associations, and aesthetic and ethical values. Not surprisingly, a book on human-wildlife conflicts titled Natural Enemies takes a different approach, focusing in on a narrow range of humanwildlife relationships - those of intense conflict. This narrow focus should not be confused with one-sidedness, however, since the contributions to this volume provide many broader social and cultural insights into human-nature relationships. This book convincingly shows that human relationships with wildlife go beyond the material, and illustrates some of the many ways in which wildlife play a role in social relations and discourse. It does this by bringing together papers by 10 social and cultural anthropologists (mostly European in either origin or training) to examine peoplewildlife conflicts, focusing the major themes of: I) the socially constructed character of pestilence discourse, 2) relationships between wildlife pestilence and conservation, 3) symbolic dimensions of wildlife threats, 4) moral specification of dangerous animals, and 5) the variety of ways that wildlife conflicts overlap with conflicts among people. These case studies reveal the social and cultural complexity of wildlife discourse and human-wildlife relationships, showing how human-wildlife conflicts can be strongly influenced by the cultural symbolism of the animal in question and linked to social relationships and conflicts.


Schelhas, John. 2004. Natural enemies: people-wildlife conflicts in anthropological perspective. Human Ecology Review, Vol. 11, No. 1: 68-70