Doctoral Candidate Kalli Doubleday recently published a single author paper in the international geography journal Geoforum titled: Nonlinear liminality: Human-animal relations on preserving the world’s most famous tigress.
Kalli pursued this research as a side project during her first dissertation field season. She had watched many documentaries centered on the famous tigress Machli and was shocked to hear the Rajasthan Forest Department had put forth a proposal to taxidermy her after she died for display at the forest station in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Moreover, Kalli had read about the Forest Department feeding Machli in her old age. As a wild animal Kalli wanted to investigate this complex situation that was unraveling around the enigma of Machli: an elderly, internationally adored wild animal. Before submitting the paper to a journal Kalli submitted an earlier version of the paper to the 2016 Animal Geography Specialty Group of the AAG’s graduate student paper competition. The paper won and was subsequently presented at the 2017 American Association of Geographer’s Annual Meeting in Boston as a published paper.
Abstract: This paper explores the Rajasthan Forest Department’s feeding of an elderly tigress named Machli, and her consequent liminal status between a wild life and a captive life. Machli is regarded as the world’s most famous tiger as a result of her decade-long starring role in multiple documentaries broadcast to international audiences. Many people display a relational empathy towards Machli. This has resulted in a powerful ethic of care, materialized in the Forest Department’s realignment of resources to care for her in old age; specifically to keep her from an unbefitting end of starvation. Machli’s relationship to humans and other tigers contribute to scholarship that interrogates notions of “wildness,” “pristine nature,” and the social construction of the nature-society divide through the case of an individual animal’s celebrity and consequential human-animal relations. Most scholarship centers on species or a population in theorizing human-animal conservation relationships and within the distinct spaces of in or ex situ conservation sites. I argue that greater attention needs to be paid to the complex scalar entanglements of individual animals and how this impacts perceptions about conservation practices and wild nonhuman life more generally. This is particularly true as individual animal celebrity grows across a broad spectrum of wild, captive, and domestic spaces and projected or rejected domesticity. Machli’s case highlights and allows for theoretical intervention into changing normative human-wild animal relations across scales and species.
Source: Kalli F. Doubleday. 2017. Nonlinear liminality: Human-animal relations on preserving the world’s most famous tigress. Geoforum 81: 32-44.