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Monday, 11 November 2013

Abstract for 13/12 - "The symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Scandinavia"

The abstract below was written yesterday, in preparation of my upcoming presentation December 13th at First Norwegian Research Seminar – Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural mediation and Semiotic Analysis.

See also the latest online versions of my CV and bibliography.


The symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Scandinavia
Morten Tønnessen
First Norwegian Research Seminar – Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural mediation and Semiotic Analysis (December 13, 2013 – University of Stavanger)

In this presentation, as background for the case study “Representations (both Problematic and Romanticizing) of Large Mammals, especially Wolves”, I will summarise my work on wolves to date. This includes 8 academic publications (Tønnessen 2010a, 2010b, 2010c, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c, 2013a and 2013b) and 18 presentations at conferences and research seminars:
  • 2009
    • Wolf Land: The Phenomenal World of Wolves on the Scandinavian Peninsula
    • On Contrapuntuality: Semiotic Niche vs. Ontological Niche: The Case of the Scandinavian Wolf Population
    • Estranged, Endangered, Extinct: Lessons from the Extinction off the Scandinavian Wolf
    • The Changing Imagery of the Big Bad Wolf
  • 2010
    • The Legality and Ethical Legitimacy of Wolf Hunting in Scandinavia
    • En økosemiotisk analyse av norsk ulveforvaltning [An ecosemiotic analysis of Norwegian wolf management]
    • Territory vs. Confinement: The Umwelten of Free-Range vs. Captive Wolves
    • Ulovlig jakt på ulv [Illegal wolf hunting]
    • The Nature View and Worldview of People in Rendalen Municipality in the Region of Hedmark
  • 2011
    • Bad Dog: An Uexküllian Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management
    • The Umwelt Trajectories of Wolves, Sheep and People
    • Wolf History: Agents in Hiding
    • Two Global Species and their Age-Old Foe: The Semiotic Eth(n)ology of Wolves, Sheep and People
    • Offisiell og ‘uoffisiell’ rovviltforvaltning i Norge sett med et humanøkologisk blikk: Hva er motivene og handlingene? [Official and ‘unofficial’ predator management in Norway seen from the perspective of human ecology: What are the motifs and actions?]
    • The Cultural Semiotic of Wolves and Sheep
  • 2012
    • The Contemporary Symbolic Construction of Norway’s Big Bad Wolf
  • 2013
    • Animal and Eve: How Representations of Wolves and Sheep are Used to Construct Human Identities
    • Plans for Field Work on Predator-Prey Conflicts in Norway involving Video-Recorded Interviews followed by Pico-Scale Analysis
In cultural terms, hardly any animal is as loaded with symbolic value as the wolf. A main finding in my work to date is that the wolf has become a poster boy for large predators in general, and a scape goat for certain societal developments. In consequence, what wolves are taken to signify depends not so much on actual wolf ecology as on these cultural/societal developments, which are, justly or unfairly, associated with the presence of wolves. The wolf’s vivid symbolicity in current times is enforced by the occurrence of conspiracy theories.
In Norway, the wolf as a symbol is particularly associated with the sheep as a symbol. The sheep’s symbolicity is in the Norwegian context grounded in open landscapes, which are typically taken to be intrinsically Norwegian. Sheep symbolicity is thus effectively associated with outer pastures, which have been crucial in Norwegian sheep husbandry but are now under pressure. And so it is that wolves are blamed for overgrowth (gjengroing).

Tønnessen, Morten 2010a. Wolf Land. Biosemiotics 3.3: 289-297.
— 2010b. Is a Wolf wild as Long as it Does Not Know that It Is Being Thoroughly Handled? Humanimalia – a journal of human/animal interface studies 2(1) (Fall 2010): 1-8 (available online).
— 2010c. The Legality and Ethical Legitimacy of Wolf Hunting in Scandinavia. Pp. 65-72 in the Research seminar report 52 of the Scandinavian Council for Criminology.
— 2011a. I, Wolf: The Ecology of Existence. In Johannes Servan and Ane Faugstad Aarø (eds.): Environment, Embodiment and Gender, Bergen: Hermes Text, 315-333.
— 2011b. Fra by og land, mann mot mann til visjon 2040 [From city against countryside, man against man to vision 2040]. Kulturverk (online magazine) – published in three parts Nov. 13, Nov. 17 and Nov. 24.
— 2011c. Umwelt Transition and Uexküllian Phenomenology – An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management (= Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis 16). Doctoral dissertation. Tartu: Tartu University Press. 232 pp. Introduction available online.
2013a. Hvem er villest i landet her? Et ulveliv [Who is wildest in this country here? A wolf's life]. In Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen (eds) 2013, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man]Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 79-98. 
— 2013b. Ketil Skogen, Olve Krange og Helene Figari 2013, Ulvekonflikter – en sosiologisk studie, Oslo 2013: Akademika forlag. Book review. Sosiologi idag 43(2) (Special Issue on „Dyr i samfunnet“ [Animals in society]): 117-122. Summary available online.

The work presented here has been supported by EEA Norway Grants EMP151.

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