Wildlife agencies: practice, intentionality and history in 20th century animal field studies

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JournalBJHS: THEMES
DateAccepted/In press - 19 May 2017
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper explores the ways in which scientists have managed the concept of animal ‘agency’ in twentieth-century field based studies of animal behaviour. Using a range of popular accounts published between 1868 and 2012, it provides the intellectual and historical context for the sharp increase in field studies of animals – and their popularisations– that took place from the late nineteen-sixties on. It argues that the vivid depiction of animal characters and personalities, with individual and community histories intertwined, is firmly grounded in the methodologies adopted for field studies of animal behaviour. It suggests that intellectual interest in animal agency not only itself needs to be historically situated, but close historiographical attention needs to be paid to the public deployment of the concept for intellectual, political and moral reasons. It concludes that – as far as field studies of animal behaviour are concerned – animals are not just the subjects of research, but can often be active collaborators in the research process.

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