Our Karen Dalke will be presenting her research at the International Society for AnthroZoology meetings in Toronto, Canada in August. Give her your congratulations! Here is the abstract of her poster:
Mustang: Images are Everything
What is a wild horse or mustang? Or, more importantly, what do we imagine it to be? When recounting the history of the wild horse or mustang, it is apparent that its status continues to waiver between a pest to be eradicated and a cultural symbol worthy of protection. How can one animal evoke such passionate and oppositional responses? The wild horse is the same species as its domestic counterpart. However, as a feral animal, it lives in a liminal state between domestic and wild. Vast amounts of data have been collected on the behavior of wild horses, their herd composition, and their impact on the environment. As an anthropologist, I am interested in how culture constructs the mustang and how different social constructions influence behaviors and beliefs about these animals. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to establish a comprehensive understanding of the diversity of images that exist regarding wild horses and explain how these images are manipulated for specific purposes. The greatest concern when undertaking this ethnographic study was that the wild horse and its many images do not have a specific longitude or latitude. The study was not defined by geography, but by flows of people, goods and information. The ongoing discussion of whether the mustang should be eradicated or promoted reveals the power of images. Attacking or trying to eliminate the mustang challenges history, the West and the value of freedom. Can one remember the West without a mustang? Do the mountains and desert seem as exotic without wild horses running upon them? Do are hearts race a little faster when we view a commercial in which a mustang snorts alongside the car of the same name?