“From Zoo to Zoöpolis”

July 14, 2010

Metamorphoses of the Zoo: Animal Encounter after Noah, edited by the inestimable Ralph Acampora, has now been published. Among a number of great essays, including Jennifer Wolch’s influential “Zoöpolis,” is my “From Zoo to Zoöpolis: Effectively Enacting Eden.” (A related review on “Unreal Zoos” is at Society and Animals 18:1.) This essay was a challenge to write, not only because it synthesises so much of my neglected work, but also due to Ralph’s insistence (central to the book) that critique be paired with reconstruction. An important, if taxing exercise for us card-carrying Foucauldians and our instinctive suspicion of therapeutic interventions.

In the acknowledgements, Ralph apologises to his son for scandalising his middle namesake, but then characteristically avers in favour of promise. I am another to both despise and love the flood story, and another with a son named after (if not for) that ambivalent patriarch. He knows the letters that make up his name and is apparently capable of ego-googling, because he came running one morning to show me this page, and exclaim about its images of “animals, water, animals, water.” This essay is for him, and generations of biophiliacs to come; may they not be alone on the earth.

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