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On Ferality and Urban Space: An exploration of the contested lives and death-making policies of individuals that exist between the binary of domestic and wild.


Wildlife advocacy in urban spaces is, at the most basic level, a complication of the modern Western idea of nature as separate from human. To argue for the conservation of any nonhuman urban resident, one must engage with a set of theoretical assumptions that necessarily refute the binaries of wild/domestic, native/nonnative, and nature/society. To be in an urban space is, by definition, to not be in pristine wilderness; however, debates over the management of urban nonhuman individuals, populations, and species betray the complex assumptions founded on the colonial history of conservation and control. 

I argue that urban wildlife conservation exposes the fallacy of these arbitrary classifications by simultaneously using and refuting the established narratives that justify letting urban street dwelling domestic animals die. By building on literature regarding the vested colonial interests in conservation strategies (Neumann 1998), the programs created to measure and control the improvement of nature (Li 2007), and how recent literature in posthumanities and animal studies can help further interrogate the systems of life and death making policies for urban nonhuman residents (Haraway 2008, Lorimer 2016), I explore how ferality can help expose the arbitrariness of these binaries.

Specifically, this paper problematizes the strategic use of conservation in urban policies by analyzing ferality, and teasing out the entanglements of the human-nonhuman in urban spaces through the lens of Foucauldian biopower. What does it mean to be feral? Who defines this classification? How is ferality invoked in policies of making live and letting die? I invite one kitten to help unravel binaries, where ferality is the key in-between classification that denies and defies urban wildlife claims to justify death making through conservation of wild life, and questions the current policies of letting die domestic animals that fall out of usefulness. 

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