‘A place for everything’ : Moral landscapes of ‘swiftlet farming’ in George Town, Malaysia

Creighton CONNOLLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper is based on 6 months of ethnographic, multi-sited research in Malaysia, and investigates the relatively recent phenomenon of edible birds’ nest farming in urban areas (‘swiftlet farming’). Swiftlet farms are typically converted shophouses or other buildings which have been modified for the purpose of harvesting the nests of the Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus). I use the controversy over urban swiftlet farming in the Malaysian city of George Town, Penang, to examine discourses used by key stakeholders to shape debates over the place of non-human animals in cities. By considering everyday experiences of urban swiftlet farming, I explore how this burgeoning industry is perceived amongst residents, and how it is deemed to be (in)appropriate within the political, economic and cultural landscape of George Town. Yet, I also consider how farmers have sought to contest these discourses on ideological and normative grounds. In so doing, I place the cultural animal geographies literature in conversation with emergent literature on landscape and urban political ecology. Such a framing allows for a critical evaluation of the controversies surrounding this case, and their implications for human-animal cohabitation in cities. The paper reflects on the implications of this case for how we regulate human-animal relations and live in contemporary cities, and the crucial role of animals in altering urban form, aesthetics and everyday life, particularly in non-Western contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-191
Number of pages10
JournalGeoforum
Volume77
Early online date18 Nov 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Animal geography
  • Landscape
  • Malaysia
  • Moral geography
  • Political ecology
  • Swiftlet farming

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