Article

“There Is No Wild”: Conservation and Circus Discourse

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Abstract

This paper documents the discourse used by contemporary circuses to justify their exploitation of nonhuman animals. The circus is undergoing redefinition due to cultural changes, animal welfare concerns, and political legislation. Critical Discourse Analysis is applied to a sample of articles (N= 128) on animals in circuses published in usnewspapers and magazines from 2007 to 2012. Analyses revealed that circus discourse attempts to (a) promote the circus as an ecologically important endeavor, (b) minimize the differences between human and nonhuman animals, (c) naturalize culturally induced behavior, (d) assert that captivity is preferable to the wild, and (e) collapse domesticity and wildness. These discursive strategies serve to legitimize, naturalize, and produce consent for the use of nonhuman animals in circuses. Furthermore, circus discourse conceptualizes nature and culture in ways that are ideologically significant and detrimental to the promotion of a conservation mindset.

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... A critical discourse analysis was applied by Bell (2015) to examine the discourses of legitimation in the use of animals in contemporary circuses in a context where circuses face ongoing ideological challenges. This current paper utilises discourse analysis not for a circus, but for a marine park, and documents changes in discourse over a three year period while noting the broader context that these changes occurred within. ...
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... This kind of interaction is called presentation (Beardsworth and Bryman 2001) and differs from an encounter which occurs in the animals' habitat. Although recent changes have been made in the ways the aforementioned institutions frame and perform their activities, several scholars argue that they tend to promote a conceptualization of wild animals and nature that is detrimental to the promotion of a conservation mindset (Fennell 2012(Fennell , 2013bBell 2015). ...
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