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The Wild Side of Animal Domestication

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This paper examines not the process but the concept of nonhuman animal domestication. Domestication involves both biological and cultural components. Creating a category of domestic animals means constructing and crossing the boundaries between human and animal, culture and nature. The concept of domestication thus structures the thinking both of researchers in the present and of domesticators and herders in the past. Some have argued for abandoning the notion of domestication in favor of a continuum of human-nonhuman animal relationships. Although many human-animal relationships cannot be neatly pigeonholed as wild or domestic, this paper contends that the concept of domestication retains its utility.There is a critical distinction between animals as a resource and animals as property. Domestication itself had profound consequences for the societies and worldview of the domesticators and their descendents. In addition to the material effects of animal wealth, domestic animals provide both a rich source of metaphor and a model of domination that can be extended to humans.


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