Bewildering Boar: Changing Cosmopolitics of the Hunt in Europe and Beyond

Project within the TANDEM program of The Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS), Charles University and CEFRES/CNRS based on the CEFRES Platform’s cooperation and endeavour to excellency in social and human sciences.

Eurasian wild pigs (Sus scrofa) feature regularly in European public discourse, for their numbers have been rising spectacularly across the continent. While in some parts of Europe this by now synanthropic species generates sympathy, in other contexts humans have declared war on wild boars for causing extensive damage to landscapes, agriculture, transportation networks and so on. In this context, we are asking how the Eurasian wild pig has featured in human lives, and vice versa, in dynamically changing socio-environmental contexts. Our search for answers will take two routes.

First, we will focus on the wild pig in its own right and its multiple relations with humans. Especially the relation of predation will be an important case study for our research. Studies of hunting in non-European contexts (e.g., Africa, Amazonia, Siberia) have led to numerous theoretical and methodological innovations in the field of social anthropology, from the exploration of hunter-gatherer societies nested in the paradigm of the natural sciences to the recent phenomenological return to animism as an analytical category. However, topics such as European hunting and game management have been largely excluded from the corresponding bodies of literature, something that we would like to redress.

Second, we will use the wild boar as a heuristic device to engage with topics that are of significant interest to both academics and the wider public. We are convinced that, by tracing wild pigs across various contexts, we will gain a new perspective on issues such as land ownership and land reform; the legal status of animals; environmental pollution and safety and hygiene standards; multiform politics of care; the role of pigs as laboratory animals (including genetic convergences with humans and xenotransplantation); and firearms legislation.

Currently, our team consists of four researchers. Luděk Brož and Virginie Vaté are the principal partners of the TANDEM, representing CAS and CNRS respectively. Aníbal Arregui and Marianna Szczygielska are postdoctoral research fellows.

We will engage with wild boars and their people ethnographically in the Czech Republic, France, Poland and Spain. Opened to unexpected developments, we plan to act intentionally as prospectors of new research agendas – contexts, topics, connections. In any case, we will be keen on comparisons across our research sites and beyond, and we look forward to developing collaborations with like-minded researchers across disciplines.

The team will start working in February 2018, and we are already looking for ways to choose and enter our field sites. In October 2018 we will organise an international workshop in Prague to discuss preliminary findings and the future course of the project. Interested in coming? Get in touch!

Follow us on our scientific blog “Boar”!