Animal decision-making and public space: An assemblage geography of Auckland’s feline actors. (16182)
Geography, as a discipline, can be found guilty of both subscribing to and perpetuating a view of non-human animals as passive features of our geographic landscapes rather than active creators of space. Until relatively recently, animals have been situated as part of the ‘environment’, and as such have been most visible through the lens of physical geography. Here, animals are generally treated as environmental indicators within a space that is constructed as distinct from the cultural milieu inhabited by humans. In cultural (or ‘human’) geography, co-existence with animals has generally been sidelined in favour of their symbolic significance, or their role in processes in which humans are the dominant actors (such as domestication, tourism or conservation). Nevertheless, the rise of animal geographies since the 1990s, the advent of ‘material turn’, and the foregrounding of relativist approaches has better enabled geographers to incorporate non-human agencies into cultural accounts. In this paper, I look specifically at the way that non-humans exercise decision-making within public space. I focus on the way that encounters between stray cats and humans can both support and restrict animal presence(s) in Auckland’s urban environment by drawing on assemblage theory as a way of re-imagining the production of knowledge within geographic scholarship.