New article published in Environmental Humanities Journal. To access the article, click here
Unmaking the Feral: The Shifting Relationship between Domestic-Wild Pigs and Settler Australians
Domesticated pigs (Sus scrofa) were introduced as livestock in Australia by European settlers, and now a large population is living wild. Rather than interrogate the settler pig as co-colonizer and destroyer of Australian ecologies, this article employs Deborah Bird Rose’s concept of “unmaking”—a process that fractures relationality in service of control—to articulate the relational violence done to the free-living pig by naming it a feral animal. An examination of the nonhuman’s historical entanglement with Anglo-Australian settlers in New South Wales will trace the free-living pigs’ shifting agency and identity. Introduced pigs were modern English breeds, domesticates in nascent capitalist stages of unmaking. Yet, these animals were made anew in Australia, living largely unmediated and demonstrating remarkable adaptability to novel environments. This article analyzes how porcine bodies and identities took shape in connection to a hunting culture and wild pork economy, a practice that encouraged Sus scrofa’s transformative ability to move between wild and domestic domains. Then, in the 1950s, how farmers, veterinarians, and government actors with converging motivations sought to reductively read the free-living pig as toxic and illegitimate, and to rebrand the “wild” pig as “feral.” To be feral in Australia is to be part of a systematic process that institutes strict limitations on an animal’s relational possibilities. By problematizing all life-sustaining connections the nonhuman being has with their environment, this process endeavors to radically unmake the socio-ecologies that constitute their being. Unmaking the feral targets the relational knots that make existence possible.