Human-lion situations


We readily accept that human-animal relations vary in relation to the culture of the humans involved and in relation to what animal species we are deal- ing with. However, the same “kind” of animal and the same “kind” of humans may still engage in very different relations with one another. The notion of “situ- ation” sheds light on the fact that these relationships are not due to inherent and unalterable characteristics of humankind or of animal species but rather to par- ticular humans and particular animals interacting repeatedly and habitually throughout history. In this contribution, I look at the relation between southern African foragers and lions along these lines. In the Kalahari, humans and lions have lived for a long time side by side without much conflict, but a few changes in the conditions that enable this relationship are enough to lead to quite a different situation. Relations between humans and lions in many cultural settings are spe- cial and particularly loaded. Examples include special events such as the recent shooting of “Cecil the lion” in Zimbabwe, which generated a wave of outrage in Western social media. Examples also include motifs in the folklore of southern African foragers, who are also known as “San” or “Bushmen,” in which the char- acter of the “Lion” is depicted as an animal of great power but also subject to human trickery. This contribution argues that human-lion relationships on the ground are not so much determined by exceptional events or by conventional mo- tifs in storytelling but by historically contingent situations to which humans and lions contribute through the particular modes of interaction. That interaction can be characterized as one of intimate mutual recognition but also as one of keeping a distance from one another.


Widlok, T. (2018): Human-lion situations. transcript. The situationality of human-animal relations

Authors Widlok, Thomas
Type inbook
Title Human-lion situations
Booktitle The situationality of human-animal relations
Year 2018
Editor Thiemo Breyer, Thomas Widlok
Publisher transcript
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