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Going Feral: When domestic nonhuman life is abandoned to the wild through disaster, does that life become ‘resilient’?

Abstract

A wildlife commission describes a feral animal as one who: “has escaped from domestication or has been abandoned to the wild and has become wild, and the offspring of such animals” (FWC). In September 2017,  the military removed all 1800 humans from Barbuda in the days after Category 5 Hurricane Irma devastated the island. All nonhuman life, including domestic, agricultural, and wild species, were abandoned to their potential to survive in an island now void of human intervention. Just ten days after all nonhuman life was abandoned, international news articles reported that “the pets left behind are going feral” (John 2017).

Evans and Reid (2014) argue that resilience thinking placed the burden to adapt, to survive, on the individuals. If the abandoned life found ways to survive the disaster, would these individuals not be folded in to the larger goal of resilience? Had humans survived the disaster they might have been declared a successful resilient population. For nonhuman life, however, domestic individual survived despite the loss of humans, and through survival were recast as feral and made killable. In this paper, I argue that the process of surviving was rewritten through the narrative of ferality as a way of strategically refuting the ability of individual nonhuman animals to survive abandoned from the human bonds. The potential to become other-than-domestic could have been cast as a resilient population, but as Povinelli (2016) reminds us, the potential to become other than what is expected is often as dangerous as the disaster.

*Paper Anticipated Fall 2018