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Monkey business social and cultural geography 2010
This article was downloaded by: [National University Of Singapore]On: 22 September 2010Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 779896407]Publisher RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Social & Cultural Geography Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713708888 Monkey business: human-animal conflicts in urban Singapore Jun-Han Yeoa; Harvey Neob a Raffles Girls School, Singapore b Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore Online publication date: 17 September 2010To cite this Article Yeo, Jun-Han and Neo, Harvey(2010) Monkey business: human-animal conflicts in urban Singapore,Social & Cultural Geography, 11: 7, 681 — 699To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2010.508565URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2010.508565 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
Social & Cultural Geography, Vol. 11, No. 7, November 2010 Monkey business: human– animal conﬂicts in urban SingaporeDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 Jun-Han Yeo1 & Harvey Neo2 1 Rafﬂes Girls School, 20 Anderson Road, 259978, Singapore and 2Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, 1 Arts Link, 117570, Singapore, firstname.lastname@example.org Ongoing human– long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) conﬂicts in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore, have seen native macaques signiﬁcantly affected, as residential development encroaches into animals’ habitat, destroying important wildlife corridors. The search for a more humane treatment of these transgressive animals can be seen as an attempt to extend and include non-human animals within humanistic notions of ethics and care, in the process destabilizing the assumed divide between human/animal. Yet, a feasible solution is difﬁcult to reach as National Parks Board (NParks), the state agency overseeing the conservation of reserves and wildlife, has to negotiate constantly between their goal of maintaining biodiversity and appeasing the complaining residents. The paper seek to understand urban – wilderness conﬂicts between human– macaque, showing that the divide between tamed/wild is multi-sited, ambiguous and constantly shifting. In this regard, we are especially interested in the role of intermediaries in initiating actions to ‘make discursive as well as material space’ for macaques in the reserve. Intermediaries, here referring to NParks and animal activists, are actors who do not reside near the reserve thus having no frequent encounters with wildlife, yet are enrolled as mitigators during instances of human –animal conﬂicts. Key words: animal geography, environmental politics, transgression, borderlands, urbanization, intermediaries. Introduction rising environmental movements challenging speciesism, led the newly emerging animal ‘New’ animal geography emerged during the geographers to rethink the concept of sub- mid-1990s, interrogating the anthropocentr- jectivity and disrupt the assumed dichotomy ism of social theory by ‘bringing the animals between human/animal (Wolch and Emel back in’ (Wolch and Emel 1995) and examin- 1998). Animals are reconceptualized as beings ing the material welfare and cultural signiﬁ- possessing subjectivity, agency and intention- cance of nonhuman animals within the ality, active in conﬁguring both the environ- geographies of social life. The post-structural ment they inhabit and their interactions with turn in geography in the 1980s, together with people. Although Wilbert (2000) questions the ISSN 1464-9365 print/ISSN 1470-1197 online/10/070681-19 q 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2010.508565
682 Jun-Han Yeo & Harvey Neo necessity of such conceptualizations in acknowledging animals’ agency, and the effectiveness of such exercises in uncovering animals’ ‘beastliness’ and the (ineluctable?) risk of anthropomorphism (see also Johnston 2008); animals, nevertheless, began to ﬁgure critically in the construction of human identities and formation of places andDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 landscapes. This paper studies the ongoing human – long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis; Figure 1) conﬂicts in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR), Singapore. Native macaques are signiﬁcantly affected, as residential devel- opment encroaches into animals’ habitat, destroying important wildlife corridors, and in the process, discursively rewriting the meaning of the landscape (Wolch 2002). In 2007, 206 macaques were caught and culled, double the ﬁgure of ninety-three in 2004 (The Straits Times 2008b). Culling signiﬁes the shifting of spatial relations between human Figure 1 Long-tailed macaque. Authors’ own and animals, where wildlife are rendered ‘out- photograph. of-place’ as spaces become urbanized. BTNR is an example of what Wolch, Emel treatment of these transgressive animals can and Wilbert (2003: 188) termed ‘“border- be seen as an attempt to extend and include land” communities’ where humans and wild nonhuman animals within humanistic notions animals share spaces. Material and metapho- of ethics and care, in the process, destabilizing rical boundaries are placed to demarcate the assumed divide between human/animal. urban spaces as domains of human dom- Yet, a feasible solution is difﬁcult to reach as inance. Such boundaries are highly permeable National Parks Board (NParks), the state and susceptible to animal transgressions. agency overseeing the conservation of reserves Transgression, the physical and ‘metaphorical and wildlife, has to constantly negotiate crossing of social boundaries (norms, conven- between their goal of maintaining biodiversity tions, and expectations)’ (Philo 1995: 656), blurs human/animal divide, producing anxiety and appeasing the complaining residents. that legitimizes the removal of the transgressor The paper seeks to understand urban – for the perceived order to be restored. wilderness conﬂicts between human – macaque However, the ambiguity of borderland, within BTNR, showing that the divide namely the trans-species sharing of spaces, between tamed/wild is multi-sited, ambiguous makes animal culling a morally-charged issue and constantly shifting. In this regard, we are (Gullo, Lassiter and Wolch 1998; Proctor especially interested in the role of intermedi- 1998). The search for a more humane aries in initiating actions to ‘make discursive
Monkey business 683 as well as material space’ (Wolch 2002: 736) in-/excluded in different spaces (Philo 1995: for macaques in the reserve. Intermediaries, 664). Philo (1995) shows how medical, moral here referring to NParks and animal activists, and sanitary discourses had been mobilized are actors who do not reside near the reserve to render behavior of livestock animals as thus having no frequent encounters with disruptive and polluting to civility and order wildlife, yet are enrolled as mitigators during of nineteenth-century Smithﬁeld, London, instances of human – animal conﬂicts. We will thus constituting livestock, together with also elaborate on a ‘dwelt perspective’ to meat markets and slaughterhouses, as ‘out-Downloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 interrogate the role played by the intermedi- of-place’. Howell (2000) shows how dog- aries in the management of animal – human stealing in the Victorian age undermined the conﬂicts; this is a research lacuna that we seek gendered, bourgeois ideology of domesticity, to contribute to. thus legitimizing the domestication and Following this introduction, we will give an conﬁnement of both the ‘feminized’ lap dogs overview of work within animal geographies and their virtuous women keepers within that recognizes the discursive role of animals the security of the household. Michel (1998) in the social construction of places and argues that the conservation/rehabilitation of landscapes, followed by a suggested concep- endangering golden eagles and their habitat by tual framework and a brief note on method- grassroots communities produce politicized, ologies. In the substantive empirical section, trans-species acts of care that position eagles we ﬁrst discuss BTNR residents’ attitudes and as important actors in the making of the behaviors towards wild macaques, to reveal southern California landscape. the socio-spatial implications for macaques as Domesticated animals, like livestock, are spaces become urbanized. We then examine crucial in the imaginative geography of the discourses and agencies of intermediaries, rurality. They embody the values of rurality, speciﬁcally scrutinizing the mitigating role of and are symbols of rural ways of life and NParks. NParks’ positionality within this livelihood. In their study of the changing conﬂict is, we will show through the issue of geography of livestock distribution in the culling, constantly shifting. As conﬂicts occur British countryside, Yarwood and Evans move within ambiguous trans-species borderlands, beyond economistic reasoning, and draw a mitigation process can never be assumed as relationship between ‘breeds, place and cul- objective, as any solution reached is always ture’ (2000: 100) to argue that certain rare situational and politicized. place-speciﬁc breeds are preserved to not only protect local ecology and promote agrotour- ism, but also to (re)constitute local identity Animal geographies: politics and repre- through the animal’s historical and cultural sentations links with the landscape. Similarly, Hovorka (2008) also argues that chickens are inﬂuential Animal geographers have shown how humans’ actors in determining the ‘form, function and interpretation of, and relations with animals dynamics’ of Greater Gaborone, Botswana, inevitably have their own spatial implications. through their important socio-economic trans- Human discourses about animals shape species relationships with humans. their attitude and socio-spatial practices Despite the absence of animals’ physical towards them, in which different species are participations in political processes, their
684 Jun-Han Yeo & Harvey Neo representations are still mobilized in such a moral baggage and deviant label for the contestations (Woods 1998, 2000). Woods pigeons that legitimizes their extermination. (1998) shows how representations of deer are However, pigeons’ capacity for ﬂight makes variedly mobilized by different politically- them ‘effective transgressor(s)’ (Jerolmack motivated actors to legitimize their claims in 2008: 89), that continuously blurs the ideo- the staghunting debates. Anti-hunting cam- logical spatial ordering between nature/culture paigners utilize emotive images to portray deer in the city. as defenseless animals suffering from pain and Western suburbs are examples of urban–Downloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 cruelty in the hunt; whereas hunt supporters wilderness border zones, where urban sprawl use scientiﬁc discourses to afﬁrm hunting as encroaching into animal habitats resulted in ‘natural’ and necessary in controlling deer increased interactions and conﬂicts between population. Similarly, during the ‘BSE crisis’, humans and animals.1 Baron (2004) provides cattle were imbued with monetary and a chronological documentation of how public cultural values by farmers and agricultural debate and conﬂict in issues, like lawsuits over lobbyists in their negotiations for compen- wildlife-related injuries, hunting and extermi- sation over the cattle culled, and also nation policies, were raised as wild cougars scientiﬁcally represented by British govern- return to their habitat of Boulder, Colorado. ment to ‘establish “facts” about the disease Similarly Gullo, Lassiter and Wolch (1998) and hence make recommendations about its account for how people’s social construction control’ (Woods 1998: 1229). As livestock are of cougars and their characters shifted and central to meanings of rurality, the crisis also became polarized over time as cougar encoun- represented rural alternatively as a diseased ters increased in Orange County, California. space, overturning the popular purity imagery With the reinforcing role of media coverage, of the countryside. representations of cougars as respected charis- These examples illustrate that the represen- matic symbols of wilderness in the mid-1980s tations of animals are always political; biased were displaced gradually by constructions of and partial, reﬂecting solely the interests of them as cold-blooded ‘killing machines’ in the humans in their political debates. Animals are 1990s with heightening incidences of cougar- enrolled and mobilized in often contradictory induced injuries. The falling moral status of ‘representations’, with their ‘beastly’ presences the cougars left an opening for negotiating the purposefully erased (Marvin 2001; Woods reinstating of trophy hunting. 2000). Hence, when animal behaviors contradict the way humans perceive or ‘represent’ them, Considering intermediaries or when they transgress those boundaries humans imaginatively scripted them into, What is largely missing in the literature is the conﬂict arises. Jerolmack (2008) interrogates examination of the role of intermediaries, like the spatial-cultural logic of the metaphor ‘rats wildland management agencies. Although with wings’ that represents pigeons as nui- Gullo, Lassiter and Wolch (1998) did sance animals and vectors of diseases, hence acknowledge the role of such agencies in ‘out-of-place’ in the modern city. The meta- balancing multiple contradictory roles of phorical association with rats, popularly realizing bioconservation goals, ensuring pub- perceived as ﬁlthy and disease-ridden, creates lic safety and mitigating political pressures,
Monkey business 685 they did not further interrogate how such culling, which are of anthropocentric interests. negotiations are made and how decisions are The liminality of borderland, and thus well- derived. They also fail to question whether being of wildlife, can only be maintained if intermediaries’ discourses of wildlife shift in such sites are ﬁrmly established as places times of conﬂict mitigation. Intermediaries where wildlife ought to belong. occupy a unique space in borderland debate. Unlike residents who hold particular ‘dwelt perspectives’, they have less daily contact with Dwelt perspective: living and trans-speciesDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 animals, but are nevertheless enrolled to co-relationality resolve human – animal conﬂicts, often in an assumed objectivity and professionalism. It is For those living within the borderlands, their also important to consider whether interme- understandings of the macaque issue are also diaries are involved in implementing educa- partially inﬂuenced by narratives and hearsays tional/outreach programs (Michel 1998) to of others’ experiences and encounters with create a ‘zoopolis’ (Wolch 1998), where macaques. Most importantly, individual resi- networks of care and coexistence between dent’s everyday practices and experiences animals and humans could be fostered. affect the ways they come to understand the The media also constitutes another form of macaques; experiences which intermediaries intermediary, as it signiﬁcantly inﬂuences arguably lack. It is crucial to consider how people’s knowledge of, perceptions and beha- borderland residents relate to their immediate viors towards an issue. In the cougar environment and question if the continual controversy, Gullo, Lassiter and Wolch cohabitation with their nonhuman neighbors (1998) have shown how media is inﬂuential has changed the ways these trans-species in perpetuating negative images and ideas relationships are formed and understood. about cougars, which then shaped and Johnston’s (2008) recent proposal for a reinforced the exclusionary attitude and ‘dwelt animal geography’, which is theoreti- behavior humans have towards them. Inci- cally informed by Ingold’s dwelling perspec- dents of macaque transgressions and attacks tive, is useful in understanding such everyday not only heightened media coverage of the trans-species relationships. Taking life as macaque issue, but also inﬂuenced the very constituted in process; emerging from the nature of the issue, in turn, shaping the ways practical engagements between individual macaques are discursively represented and beings (humans, nonhuman animals and understood. Media discourses reﬂecting the inorganic entities), the landscape and com- perspective of those affected by ‘problem’ ponents within the immediate environment, animals often seek to order and consolidate Ingold theorizes that how beings come to the spatialities of, and boundaries between comprehend the world is thus always through humans and animals, by portraying wildlife an ongoing holistic and situated process, that presence in residential/urban spaces as dis- is based on the active engagement of the body ruptive and dangerous. It is crucial to examine as a complete organism (Johnston 2008: 641). how wildlife control agents perceive, and react Knowledge is gained through ‘engagement, towards such discourses. Such discourses are rather than discovery or construction’ (John- often mobilized to pressure wildlife control ston 2008: 641), where all body parts, cells agents into executing drastic actions like and organs co-exist, without a part being
686 Jun-Han Yeo & Harvey Neo privileged over another. Ingold’s dwelling residents to engage and act intuitively with perspective seeks to disrupt those Cartesian the immediacy of the moment. Instances of binaries like culture/nature, mind/body, and cross-species encounters allows for new illustrates the immanent, ‘messy’ entangle- embodied practices to emerge, which are ments that constitute the life of a dwelling experimental and pregnant with creativity subject (Johnston 2008). and possibility, potentially opening up new In essence, Ingold urges scholars to be forms of relations. Familiarity and trust could sensitive to those embodied practices and develop over time, thus enabling the develop-Downloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 bodily sensations which are situated, ephem- ment of a responsible anthropomorphism, eral effects emerging from the immediate co- based not on any forms of ‘abstract philoso- relations and (emotional) entanglements phical argument, but on (our) actual relation- between entities within the relational environ- ships, (our) day-to-day living’ (Johnston 2008: ments. Ingold does not seek to undermine 646) with the animals. Mutual empathy, based the privileged position of the cognitive aesthetically on such situated, sensuous and the representational logic, but to highlight geography of dwelling, can be nurtured and the importance of those other unspoken, pre- in turn create new spaces where animals can cognitive, and intuitive communicative regis- be included and continue to co-exist alongside ters of the body like smell, sound, touch and the human inhabitants. Yet, despite such affect, that are equally capable of forming new possibilities, as the study suggests, it is just as relations and understandings between bodies. likely that dwelling amongst the animals can Johnston (2008) termed these as ‘aesthetic sustain and/or aggravate negative human– knowledge’, those relational or shared under- animal relationships. standings developed through ‘daily experi- ence, learned practices and shared events’ (Johnston 2008: 643) between human and Reanimating geography nonhuman bodies. Similar to current develop- ment within nonrepresentational theory Urbanization involves a denaturalization of (Thrift 2008), the dwelt animal geography the environment, producing deleterious also seeks to reconﬁgure what constitutes environmental impacts that affect the exist- knowledge by being attuned to the poetics of ence of wildlife. Yet, contemporary urban everyday life; remaining open to those theory is often anthropocentric, ignoring the situated, intuitive and spontaneous multi- subjectivity and agency of nonhuman animals. sensual experiences and practices that could In response, Wolch (2002: 721 –735) argues offer alternative interpretations to an event. for a reanimated urban theory, the anima Johnston (2008: 643) argues that attention urbis, ‘the breath, life, soul and spirit of the to bodily engagement and non- or pre- city . . . embodied in its animal as well as linguistic forms of communication could human life forms’, which considers the enable a more ‘responsible and informed ‘political ecology of people and animals in anthropomorphism that might speak to a the city’ and recognizes the agency, as well as more intuitive animal ethics’. Like hunters and both utilitarian and symbolic values of herdsmen, borderland residents’ day-to-day animals in constituting city life. living inevitably involves intimate encounters Wolch’s anima urbis (2002) is especially with nonhuman animals, which require useful in studying the process of place-making
Monkey business 687 in borderland communities. ‘Borderland’ is an order’ (Douglas 1966: 35). In that sense, the effective metaphor that captures the blurring act of killing/culling to remove ‘dirt’ and of boundaries between wild/urban, to consti- re-establish the ‘purity’ of space (both of tute a hybridized spatial context that is neither which are socially constructed) is self-serving fully domesticated nor wild, belonging neither and morally suspect. Yet, animals (like the wholly to humans nor animals. Regular macaques in this paper) are often ordered and contacts with animals change human attitudes inscribed with certain meanings within the and socio-spatial practices towards them over wider spatial-cultural context, which rendersDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 time, evident in the case of cougar encounters them ‘out of place’ should they transgress into in USA (Baron 2004; Gullo, Lassiter and territories where they (allegedly) do not Wolch 1998). Similarly, residential spaces belong. Animals appearing within human situated close to BTNR also produce such home spaces, for example, can trigger an complex borderland human –animal relations, anxiety, which in turn legitimizes their where Wolch’s (2002) anima urbis is useful persecution, enabling the perceived spatial in asking what urbanization means to the order between home and wilderness to be re- borderland wildlife and how this in turn afﬁrmed and re-established. shapes humans’ attitudes and practices Douglas’s thesis was incorporated into towards them. David Sibley’s (1995) Geographies of Exclu- sion. Using psychoanalytical Object Relations Theory to establish the notion of boundaries ‘Dirt’ and exclusionary geographies between Self and ‘Other’, Sibley (1995) provides a culturalist account of why some Instances of human –animal conﬂict presup- social groups, and spaces they inhabit, are pose the omnipresence of a socio-spatial stigmatized. ‘Space is implicated in many cases ordering that seeks to demarcate and dis- of social exclusion’; a plethora of imaginative tinguish boundaries between humans and geographies in different spatial and temporal animals. Conﬂict occurs when transgression takes place and disrupts such orderings. What contexts exists where minorities and Others constitutes a ‘transgression’ is based on (those perceived as threatening and polluting context-speciﬁc, discursive constructions that to dominant society) are cast into ‘elsewhere’ distinguish between ‘purity’ and ‘deﬁlement’. (Sibley 1995: 46 –49). ‘Elsewhere’ refers not Transgression blurs such distinction, creating just to stigmatized peripheral spaces like gypsy ‘liminal zones or spaces of ambiguity and camps, but also ‘nowhere’—the ‘no-space’ of discontinuity’ (Sibley 1995: 33) that produce events like massacres and genocides. Sibley anxiety. Reducing anxiety requires the prompt (1995: 72) also argues that an understanding removal of the ‘impurity’ so that the ‘purity’ of of exclusion requires a contextualized, ‘cul- space, thus spatial order, could be maintained. tural reading of space . . . which emphasizes Mary Douglas (1966: 12) argues that what the rituals of spatial organization’, referring to is ‘dirt’ is very dependent on space, as ‘(t)here the policing and purifying of space that chimes is no such thing as absolute dirt. It exists in the with Douglas’s idea of removing dirt. It is thus eye of the beholder’. Thus, ‘dirt as a matter out important to analyze those underlying exclu- of place . . . implies two conditions: a set of sionary discourses that seek to legitimize ordered relations and a contravention of that puriﬁcation actions.
688 Jun-Han Yeo & Harvey Neo Similar to marginalized social groups like ambiguously belonging and not-belonging, gypsies (Sibley 1995), animals can also be but also inﬂuences the way intermediaries conceived ‘as a social group possessing both mitigate the issue. Lynn (1998: 282 – 284) inner experiences and outer determinations’ argues that resolving animal –human conﬂicts (Philo 1995: 677, also see Tuan 1984), requires what he calls, ‘geoethics’, the con- continuously entangled within the power textual understanding of human – animal relations and socio-spatial practices of the relations within their ‘geographic community’. wider human community. Analysis of dis- Since borderlands are spaces of trans-speciesDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 courses about animals will reveal how co-existence, the culling of macaques thus different animals are culturally deﬁned or raises important ethical debate. interpreted and what material and symbolic spaces are implied for them as a result (Philo and Wilbert 2000). Companion animals like Methodology pets are desired by their owners, but wild animals like macaques and cougars or even In-depth semi-structured interviews were con- ‘out-of-place’ stray animals can raise human ducted with representatives from NParks, the anxiety leading either to their spatial exclusion state agency involved in the mitigation of or execution. It is in these ways that Johnston’s borderland conﬂicts, and Rafﬂes Girls School’s (2008) optimism in a ‘dwelt animal geogra- (RGS) Monkey Business (MB) Group, a phy’ that builds positive co-relationality of student-initiated activist group that looks human and animals can be undermined. speciﬁcally at the macaque issue. MB was Figure 2 shows the conceptual framework created by six RGS students, aged 15 – 16, to for this paper. We will examine how macaques fulﬁll the requirement of their community are discursively constituted as a social management problem-solving module in the group that is implicated within the imaginative school curriculum. The idea was conceived by geographies of human borderland residents, one of the members who had an experience of and their related socio-spatial practices of in- macaque attack, which ended in the culling of /exclusion (Philo 1995). Analyzing discourses the ‘problem’ macaque. The aim of the group is resonates with Wolch’s anima urbis (2002), to ﬁnd measures to curb human – macaque revealing how urbanization leads to the conﬂict. Topics discussed pertained to animal construction of macaques as ‘out-of-place’, ethics, conﬂict management (for NParks and how humans’ behavior and attitude especially), and to understand if campaigns changed as once distanced animals become or legislations are implemented to sustain the closer to them. Intermediaries, both state livelihood of wildlife in the borderland. agents and grassroots activists, also play a key Sixteen residents living close to BTNR were role in shaping borderland politics, invariably also interviewed in their homes (Figure 3), to affecting the existence of wildlife through their understand how macaques are being rep- agencies and discourses. Meanings of border- resented, and what human – animal spatial land thus emerged and materialized out of orderings are hence implied. Resident respon- such processes of negotiations between these dents were recruited through the snowballing various (predominantly human) actors. We method. The residents live in either condomi- argue that liminality of BTNR affects not only niums or landed property, with those living in residents’ interpretations of macaques as the latter potentially having more ‘intimate’
Monkey business 689 Anima urbis Change in State and Process of Grassroots behavior and scientific urbanization activism attitude discoursesDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 Intermediaries Borderland communities The conflict between human and macaques Exclusinary discourse Figure 2 Conceptual framework. Figure 3 Map of BTNR indicating research locations. Authors’ own map. contact, where they have more frequent visual structured interview allows for opinion and and physical contact with the macaques. For information to be elicited from a predeter- the residents, NParks ofﬁcials and RGS mined way, but ‘still ensures ﬂexibility in the students, interviews were conducted at their way issues are addressed by the informant’ homes, ofﬁces and school, respectively. Semi- (Dunn 2005: 80). Whilst our sympathies lie
690 Jun-Han Yeo & Harvey Neo somewhat with the macaques, we do not have houses, and snatch food from humans, have a ﬁxed ideological agenda and have tried led to their labeling as ‘thieves’, ‘aggressors’ consciously to avoid inﬂuencing the opinions and ‘nuisance’. Verbs like ‘plagued’ and ‘raid’ of interviewees (particularly the residents) further suggest their ‘out-of-placeness’, where when speaking to them. Newspaper articles their presence/behaviors are perceived to be from The Straits Times, the most widely intrusive within urban spaces, especially when circulated English-medium paper in Singa- they transgress home spaces and disrupt the pore, and videos that touch on human – context of home as a safe, secure, autonomousDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 macaque conﬂicts were also used in my human territory. Interestingly, one does not discussion of alternative, humane solutions naturally (and cannot legitimately) call for the to the issue. killing of human intruders and scavengers, suggesting a deep speciesism which establishes the macaques as a ‘dangerous other’ is the key ‘In-/excluded’: ambiguous macaque rationale behind the extreme treatment of the discourses of residents macaques favored by some residents. Indeed, to further establish the macaques as the Residents reveal that they are aware of ‘dangerous other’, medical discourses con- incidents of human – macaque conﬂicts in structing macaques as vectors of diseases are BTNR prior to staying there. Nevertheless, also used to legitimize their exclusions and interviews with the residents reveal that the executions. Justiﬁcations for macaques’ eradi- desire to be close to nature motivates them to cation were also gendered at times, in which take up residency there. Analysis of respon- women and children were perceived to be dents’ narratives and newspaper articles show more vulnerable (The Straits Times 2008a) that macaques are ambiguously constructed as and prone to predatory attacks of macaques: borderland/liminal creatures, simultaneously perceived as ‘out-of-place’ and belonging in They [the macaques] can judge and tend to attack the BTNR landscape. Table 1 shows the women. (Chris, condominium resident) various terms and phrases used by residents to describe macaques and their behaviors. While Indeed, media reporting of human – maca- most of the terms are unambiguous in their que conﬂicts heightened in early 2008, meanings and intent (in terms of whether they following a somewhat sensationalized report are positive, negative and neutral), a few of the of the harassment of a pregnant woman and terms we grouped as negative can be seen as her toddler by a troop of ﬁfteen macaques positive or neutral (e.g. ‘cheeky’ and ‘feisty’) (The Straits Times 2007). Anxiety over and some which we grouped as neutral can be property damage, safety and health concerns, seen as negative (e.g. ‘territorial animals’). In as induced by transgressions, undermine the such cases, we have interpreted the context apparent human ideals of home space, thus and tone of the conversations conducted with legitimizing the control/puriﬁcation of space the residents to determine whether these terms to restore and reafﬁrm the assumed ideological are used in a negative, positive or neutral order between home/‘wild’. Yet, such per- sense. ceived spatial order is multi-porous and In any case, negative discourses are domi- shifting, often extending beyond home spaces. nant. Macaques’ ability to scavenge, trespass Condominium residents mention that the mere
Monkey business 691 Table 1 Terms and phrases used by residents to describe macaque character/behavior Negative terms/phrases Positive terms/phrases Neutral terms/phrases † Can spread deadly disease † Joys and intricacies of the † Animal † Behaving aggressively long-tailed macaques’ behavior † Primate † Monkey mischief, cheeky † Dewy-eyed baby monkey † Monkeys † Nuisance wildlife † Most endearing and human-like native † Wild animals † Monkey mayhem species † Territorial animals † Plagued by moneys stealing food † Part of the heritage ofDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 † Repeat runways from troop/outcast pack Singapore † Blithely entered homes and helped † Indigenous of reserve themselves to food † Very appealing and their looks † Bad-mannered, forward melt everyone’s hearts † Raid homes † Unique feature of the park † Feisty † Highly intelligent animals † Scavengers † Harassing residents † Brazen and bold monkeys † Thieves, vandals, aggressors sightings of macaques near the swimming pool Furthermore, humans expect macaques to or at public spaces outside the condominium behave and act in certain ways. Behaviors that compound could induce them to chase them contradict human expectations and represen- away, to re-establish such spaces as ‘human tations are rendered problematic: territory’ (Chris). Plucking fruits from trees is normal monkey Discourses have its implicit spatialities. behavior, but boldly entering houses to steal food Being represented as ‘out-of-place’ ‘here’, and reacting aggressively are abnormal behaviors. macaques are then imaginatively zoned ‘else- (Cindy, landed property resident) where’, where they ought to belong. For some, this ‘elsewhere’ refers to ‘nowhere’, implying Respondents attribute such ‘abnormal that nuisance macaques ‘should be culled’ aggression’ as a result of human’s indiscrimi- (The Straits Times 2008c). Others feel that nate, year-round, feeding of the macaques, macaques should be relocated to some which changes their behavior, conditioning them to be reliant on humans for food. Being peripheral spaces like an uninhabited island. habituated to humans for food makes them Despite these exclusionary narratives, BTNR bolder, more demanding and aggressive when is still ambivalently recognized as macaques’ food is found. To macaques, the presence of habitat. Yet, macaques are discursively humans equates to the availability of food, bounded within the reserve and are faulted thus enticing them to move towards the forest for their movement beyond: fringe to forage. Macaques’ aggression is also perceived as an They [macaques] should stay as a group within the innate quality that differentiates wild animals reserve . . . It is nuisance when they enter our from humans. Macaques are being ‘Othered’ compound to scavenge and leave footprints or feces in relation to the human ‘Self’ on the criterion on the car and walls. (Chris) of their inherent beastliness. This difference is
692 Jun-Han Yeo & Harvey Neo used to legitimize culling, often in the interest humans to adjust their living practices, or of human safety even though it is widely adapt to the macaques’ presence to prevent recognized that humans must also be held conﬂict with them. Structural borders like responsible for causing macaques’ ‘abnormal walls, roofs and gates are highly porous in aggression’. Such ambiguity is evident when borderlands, as macaques can still enter Andrew, a condominium resident, discussed houses through ‘ventilation slats above win- culling as a solution: dows or through roof eaves’ (The Straits Times 1995). Hence, respondents feel the need toDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 Culling is important in controlling their population. adjust their everyday homemaking practices Macaques are sometimes responsible for their to prevent the macaques’ intrusion. These behavior . . . you know, it is necessary to cull include closing windows at all time, putting those aggressive ones . . . but then again I guess the up window nettings, using monkey-proof bins only solution is that humans must change and adapt with an additional latch (Figure 4) to prevent to nature, having heavier punishment for those scavenging, wrapping wire gauze around monkey feeders. plants and fruit trees, and distributing circu- lars in the neighborhood to emphasize proper Rationalizations neutralize the sense of guilt garbage disposal. Macaques’ agency thus (or ambivalence) associated with eradicating signiﬁcantly inﬂuences the process of home- macaques (Elder, Wolch and Emel 1998). In making as residents actively prevent the retrospect, respondents often feel that culling rupturing of home spaces by them (Power is too harsh and morally wrong, since 2009). Macaques also change respondents’ macaques are free-roaming animals that behaviors and practices beyond home spaces: belong to the reserve. Additionally, respon- dents were often sympathetic with macaques’ They change my daily behavior. When I come home behavior and use ‘human-like’ reasoning to around 6 pm (when macaques usually appear), I make sense of macaques’ aggressiveness: have to carry my groceries above my shoulders to prevent them from snatching it away or I don’t buy Edward: They are like humans; some will just run too much in case they snatch everything away. They when you chased them away but some will be tend to attack you if you carry red plastic bags so I aggressive and bare their teeth . . . like a sign of attack. will try to carry a [non-red color] recyclable bag Researcher: But, from what I gather from with me. (Chris) primatologists, this could mean a sign of fear . . . Monkeys trek pipes of the carpark ceiling to guide Edward: Maybe, just like humans I suppose, they their movement, and I know the spots where it may could attack out of fear to protect themselves. land and stay [where the pipeline ends] and will not They [adult monkeys] are desperate to save their park my car there to avoid dirt and feces. (Danson, young, just like how humans will react when their condominium resident) young are trapped or missing. (Ann, member of MB, when discussing the usage of monkey traps as a Respondents also commented that they were solution) habituated to the macaques, having knowl- Borderlands are in-between, hybrid spaces edge about their quirks and traits. Respon- where humans – animals co-habit. The choice dents like Cindy commented that macaques to reside within such liminal spaces requires tend to recognize and attack those who carry
Monkey business 693 We got used to their sound, like it’s very noisy at nights during mid-years. I believe it is their mating season then, there’s no one to snatch food from at night so I suppose they might be ﬁghting and screaming over mates. True enough, after that time, you see many of them holding their young with them. (Edward) We know the timing the monkeys will make thisDownloaded By: [National University Of Singapore] At: 12:18 22 September 2010 sound and then you will see them everywhere . . . usually around late afternoon, just like the birds. (Danson) During some instances of encounter, respon- dents like Edward also feel that there is a sense of mutual empathy developed between the macaques and him, which could potentially avert a conﬂict from happening: They seems to be able to know our human’s sense of territory, and will stay at a distance and observe me, Figure 4 Monkey-proof bins. Authors’ own at times seems scared of me. When I am around, photograph. they will keep a distance, like knowing that’s my territory and it should not get there. plastic bags, thus she uses recyclable bags, which she claimed ‘will not get the attention of This shared understanding is spontaneous the macaques’ (personal interview). Most and non-verbal, enacted through movement, respondents feel that the best way to prevent bodily engagement like sights or stares, or a conﬂict is to avoid eye-contact with the other non-linguistic forms of embodied prac- macaques. They also feel that much should be tices. The prevention of a trans-species conﬂict done by the authorities or primatologists to or transgression, at least temporarily, is made educate them about macaques’ antics and possible through the mutual empathy that behaviors. Cindy also feels that macaques are emerged out of that situational engagement sensitive to, and could understand the verbal between the two beings. This empathy also and bodily expressions of humans: aids in consolidating Edward’s territorial claim over that space. I once reprimanded a monkey for attempting to Macaques are rendered ‘out-of-place’ as the snatch my bag from me. It seems to understand my reserve fringe becomes urbanized, subjecting reaction, like raising my voice, pointing a ﬁnger at them to related exclusionary socio-spatial it, and it backed off. practices like culling. Yet, culling, as a control measure, is not unproblematic in the border- Moreover, some of these knowings are also land context. As borderlands are neither sensuously gained through their dwelt experi- completely animal nor human, they constitute ence within the borderland: ‘liminal zones’ where irrational feeling of
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