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Savage Jaguars, King Cats, and Ghostly Tigres: Affective Logics and Predatory Natures in Twentieth-Century American Nature Writing

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The emerging subfield of historical animal geography provides an opportunity to trace the origins and evolutions of how affective logics framing the conservation of an animal species are co-constituted through embodied interaction between humans and nonhumans, revealing the dynamic ways in which charismatic species are imagined into and out of positions of priority within conservation agendas. This article takes an interest in the shifting perception of predatory species in the environmental conservation movement in the United States, looking to the appearance of jaguars (Panthera onca) in the work of prominent U.S. nature writers Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Thompson Seton, and Aldo Leopold in the early- to mid-twentieth century. These human–jaguar entanglements reveal a period marked by dynamic changes in the ways in which interspecies encounters were constituted in place; a layering on of affective logics that reveal the complicated origins, practices, and potentialities at the outset of the modern conservation movement. The resulting narratives and images of predatory nature were taken up into dynamic assemblages of jaguar-ness, influencing the formation of new logics that framed public perceptions of predatory natures and provoking a reconsideration of long-held attitudes and policies toward these species.
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Keywords: , , ,; geografía histórica animal, jaguar, geografía más que humana, literatura sobre la naturaleza, predadores; historical animal geography; jaguar; more-than-human geography; nature writing; predators

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin–Madison,

Publication date: October 2, 2017

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