Pondering nature : an ethnography of duck hunting in southern New Zealand
McLeod, Carmen Mary
This thesis examines aspects of duck hunting, an activity which in recent times has met with growing disapproval from non-hunters. Once an unquestioned 'rural (masculine) tradition' within New Zealand society, shooting ducks and other game birds is now increasingly viewed as strange, or even immoral. Duck hunting contradicts a dominant (urban, romantic) construction of human-animal relations in New Zealand, where killing animals for human exploitation has become viewed as repugnant or unethical. To illuminate these tensions, and to move beyond the caricature of a duck hunter as 'mindless' killer, I undertook periodic ethnographic fieldwork over a four-year period. I explored duck hunters' experiences and understandings through extensive interviews, by observing duck hunting excursions and other related activities, and by participating in some of these activities. Theoretical issues raised in this thesis are thus grounded in the ethnographic data I gathered and from themes that emerged during my analysis of that data. This ethnography shows that duck hunting is one way of acting out or expressing a 'real' and 'authentic' relationship with 'nature'. This 'authenticity' is perpetuated through a wide variety of masculine 'performances', allowing duck hunters to escape from the 'civilised' (feminised) restraints of modern living, to a place where they revert to 'natural' masculine behaviours. Another important 'authentic' component for duck hunters is that they not only participate in ecosystems as 'predators', but also help to 'build' those very same (wetland) ecosystems: thus articulating a discourse of being 'moral predators'. Arguably, these activities are only carried out for pragmatic hunting goals. I conclude, however, that these 'nature building' activities are far more significant for duck hunters than pragmatic exercises to counter anti-hunting criticism, or to increase hunting opportunities. This thesis explains that duck hunting incorporates complex and diverse relationships that are simultaneously understood as 'natural' or within 'nature', yet also appear to be manifestations of human social and cultural expressions 'outside' of the natural world. Through key relationships with animals (especially ducks and dogs), duck hunters blur the line between humans/animals, and wild/tame binary notions. They also understand their relationship with 'nature' to be more than a purely 'visual' experience, immersing themselves within 'natural' places/spaces, and thus configuring duck hunting practices as a 'hands on' and 'intimate' approach towards 'nature'. These 'multi-sensed' relationships make no sense when framed within a nature/ culture dichotomy; instead, the notion of nature-culture hybridity is far more appropriate (Franklin 2002). Building on this notion of 'multi-sensed' experiences within 'nature', I have developed the theoretical concept of 'ensemble', which relates to Ingold's (1993, 1995) ideas of dwelling in the 'taskscape'. In this view, duck hunting encapsulates an 'ensemble' of gendered performances, human-animal relationships, and human-'nature' interactions. It is through this 'ensemble' of different practices, meanings, and experiences that duck hunting is configured as a legitimate pastime.
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
vi, 353 leaves :ill. ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. University of Otago department: Anthropology. "July 2004".