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Reading the trophy: exploring the display of dead animals in hunting magazines

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Photographs of trophy animals in 14 popular hunting magazines were analysed to explore the visual representations of dead animal bodies. We found multifaceted messages about the relationships between humans and other animals grounded in narratives of gender, race and embodiment. The visual representations of dead animal bodies are embedded in the taken-for-granted stories of love and affection for nature and wildlife that frame the contemporary hunting agenda, including the assumption that trophy displays memorialize the beauty of nature and natural animals. Disentangling ourselves from that dominant notion of what it means to display dead trophy animals was revelatory. Instead of love and respect for nature and wildlife, we found extreme objectification and marginalization of animal bodies. While we observed some elaborate displays of reassembled and carefully positioned dead bodies to appear as if still alive, a number of trophy exhibits hid the animal body behind or beneath weapons and other hunting equipment. The vast majority of the hunters in the images were white males, and when women or men of colour were included in the photographs their representations were usually consistent with gender and race stereotypes. Of these race/gender stereotypes the most interesting (and most symbolic of the patriarchal nature of the hunting discourse) was that neither women nor men of colour ever held a weapon when they appeared in photographs with white men.

Hunting was not about getting enough vitamin B 12. (Donna Haraway, Primate Visions 1989:217)
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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