Political (Wild)Life: What More-Than-Human Relations Can Tell Us About the Politics of Space

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Political (Wild)Life: What More-Than-Human Relations Can Tell Us About the Politics of Space

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This research is concerned with the effects of more-than-human relations on environmental governance. These questions can help us understand how the everyday practices of natural resource management are shaped by relations with the more-than-human world, while also provoking thought about the concepts that we use to understand those relations. Drawing on a theoretical engagement with relational ontologies and the nonhuman turn in the social sciences, the investigation is centered on interactions among humans and wildlife in a public park with a natural resource protection and environmental education mission. The central research questions are: •How do natural resource managers and other practitioners understand human-wildlife relations, and how do those understandings inform objectives, practices, and metrics for success? •In what ways do wildlife exceed those understandings and therefore force thought and natural resource management practices in unexpected directions? •How have these more-than-human processes shaped the park as a natural resource park, wildlife sanctuary, and urban wetland? And how, in turn, do those formations affect relations among wildlife and humans? The dissertation focuses on three sets of relations, presented as provocations that force a rethinking of the concepts of territory, biopolitics, and governance. Chapter One proposes a materialist theory of territory that permits an analysis of territories as emergent properties of more-than-human assemblages. As such, territorial formations can be established, maintained, and transformed not only through territorial behaviors and practices, but also through assemblage relations. Chapter Two looks closely at the park’s bird population management strategies and the responses of birds to those strategies; it offers an interpretation of those interactions as a biopolitics without biopolitical subjectivity. The final chapter concerns the capacities of beavers to alter landscapes and thereby prompt transformations in the governance of the park as an urban wetland. It suggests that this relation between park managers and beavers as creators of wetland ecosystems might be understood as a form of more-than-human cosmoecological governance. The dissertation concludes with some thoughts about the composing of shared worlds and the park as an experiment in multispecies living.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2018. Major: Geography. Advisor: Bruce Braun. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 192 pages.

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McCrea, Gwendolin. (2018). Political (Wild)Life: What More-Than-Human Relations Can Tell Us About the Politics of Space. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/202167.

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