Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Jungleland: Wild Animals, Native Peoples, and the Tropics in American Imagination

April 2nd, 2012
4:00 PM

Location
Tulane University
Newcomb Hall, 115G

The History Department invites you to a public lecture by Daniel Bender, Canadian Research Chair in Cultural History and Analysis at the University of Toronto. His talk: “Jungleland: Wild Animals, Native Peoples, and the Tropics in American Imagination” will explore how Americans came to understand the tropics and their animals as primitive and dangerous.

How did ordinary Americans in the early decades of the 20th century come to understand the tropics and their animals as primitive and dangerous? Focusing on the career of Frank Buck, the nation’s best known animal adventurer and trader and the model for many of today’s TV natural adventure stars, this talk rexamimes how animals travelled from “jungle to zoo” in order to understand the place of the tropics in linking the imperial imagination and colonial capitalism. In the seeming contradiction between the primitive jungle and the commercial value of the animal, Buck built a business that, at its base depended on the buying and selling of animals, but, for its profit, depended on selling stories of wild adventure. The animal, as animal studies scholar Cary Wolfe has noted, exists as “the object of the discourse and institutional practices, one that gives it particular power and durability in relation to other discourses of otherness.” In the hands of the trader, the tropical animal became the object of both institutional practice – capturing, transporting, selling – and the object of discourse – the obsessive retelling of the capture and transport in films, advertisements, and material culture. Such an insight is particularly important in understanding the commercial success of Buck as well as the specific ways that tropical animals became popular commodities. The zoo animal became fierce, the native part of the jungle, and the animal trader a cultural hero. In the process, Buck articulated a new kind of imperial manhood associated not with the killing of animals but with a domination of animals and people.

For more information please contact Jana Lipman in the History Department, 865-5162 or jlipman@tulane.edu.

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