More-than-Human, or Hybrid, Animal Geographies

Other animal geographies have, in recent years, sought to problematize the use of orthodox social categories in their theoretical and empirical approaches to the spatialities of human – nonhuman relations, encounters, and co productions of spaces. This includes ditching many aspects of political economy approaches whilst holding on to a focus on the wider networks in which animals are engaged and enacted. Here the focus has been on recognizing the human of human geography and to more fully accommodate the nonhuman (including animals) in the innermost fabric of societies – by developing hybrid, or more than human, geographies that focus on the living spaces and bodily entanglements of associational lives.

Here, ANT has been most inspirational to more than human geographies. Such work refuses to see animals (and humans) as centered preexisting beings, thereby, refusing a priori distinctions of separate worlds such as nature/culture or human/animals. As such, it steps aside from debates around animal rights on notions such as sentience and an extension of rights, yet, also seeks to grant a positive sense of the existence of animals but not by means of attributing human qualities to them. Instead, these approaches seek a nonanthropocentric animal geography that emphasizes how the social is populated and co constituted by myriad nonhumans, importantly including animals, in which these other entities do things in the particular configurations they are engaged, enacted, or resistant, or indeed do other things. As such, much of this work has sought to develop an ethics and politics that take seriously the entangled imbroglios of hybrid geographies or human–animal intra actions, and challenges policy, politics that sees nature, environment, or animals as matters of fixed identities.

This sense of seemingly stripping animals of any inherent qualities or agency has raised some deep concerns. Yet, it may be argued that more than human geographical work seeks to de essentialize a notion of the animal species as if all animals share exactly the same characteristics in all places. Instead, it may be seen that in terms of the material assemblages they are enacted within that a race horse is radically different from a draft horse that pulls a plough or cart, or an elephant raised in a zoo is very different from the wilder elephants studied by conservationists in a National Park in Kenya. Instead, it sees that there are varied relational forms of elephantness or horse ness that are made and remade within complex configurations. Animals might be seen to have some 'inherent' characteristics or affordances in terms of the ways they may be enacted (therefore making some links with older cultural geographies in terms of transitional species). But such characteristics are treated as established by prior ordering and disordering material practices (that always involve animals as, in some ways, co producers of these material knowledges, though in often highly unequal ways) that are subject to change, though these can also be very robust. Therefore, the centered, known animals (as species) we have come to know through television documentaries, natural history guides, zoos, theme parks, and more, are rendered as themselves in need of explanation as to how they come to be dominant, generalized views of how certain animals are known. As such, these animal geographies seem to point to how animal's characteristics differ according to the spatialities of their engagements or participations within certain assemblages.

As in the more humanist political economy and political ecology approaches, some claim that the corporeality of animal bodily doings seem to be lost among a miasma of stretched out subjects made and remade in complex intra actions with myriad other things in these hybrid geographies. Though these approaches are resolutely material, there is some concern that the fleshiness of animal bodies can easily be lost in the haze of entanglements invoked. This might be partly due to the theoretical bent of some work, but may partly be addressed by a deeper empirical focus on animals. However, more problems surround the move to evoke the corporeal aspects of relational animal lives in work that comes out of all of these theoretical approaches to animal geographies. In this, animal geographies will need to continually develop not just more experimental methodologies, but also more innovative narrative approaches to the study of animal–human intra actions.

Conclusions and Futures

The theoretical and empirical approaches discussed here are not the only ones on the block in terms of animal geographies. Moreover, the three generalized approaches outlined here in terms of new animal geographies are not wholly separable as they have been developed and engaged together and against each other in significant ways. Yet, a division between sociocultural studies that focus more on identities and culture and those that seek to develop more radically posthumanistic, lively, accounts of intra active worlds of encounter where subjectivities are dispersed and not seen to adhere in bodies andminds, can be found in this emerging literature. As such, animal geographies are party to the continuing displacements of the human centeredness of human geography. Yet, animal geographies have many places still to go and much to do in developing new politics and geographical ethics. As yet, few studies have been done on less visible animals, such as insects, that are involved in human lives in myriad important ways.