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Game Killing and Killing Games: An Anthropologist Looking at Hunting in a Modern Society

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In modern urbanized and densely populated societies - such as the contemporary Netherlands, which forms the geographical setting of the present analysis - hunting has lost its meaning as a mode of subsistence to become a symbolic strategy. Hunting is a cultural enclave in which the boundaries between humans and animals are blurred and the relations of dominance and submission symbolically reversed. Hunting challenges the legitimacy of apparently "given" power relations between humans and animals. Hunters construct, reproduce and legitimize hunting by crossing the boundaries between humans and animals. Hunting "for pleasure" is regarded as truly pleasurable only if it allows a reversal of the asymmetrical power relations between humans and animals, attributing almost human characteristerics to the game-species. In theircognitive schemes hunters measure their power and abilities with strong, cunning and preferably male opponents. Game-species share an ambivalent status between the human and the animal realms, the tame and the wild, and between their instrumental and expressive signifccance. Hunting "for pleasure" is justified by this very ambivalence.



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