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The Predicament of Nature: Keiko the Whale and The Cultural Politics of Whaling in Iceland

From: Anthropological Quarterly
Volume 79, Number 2, Spring 2006
pp. 225-260 | 10.1353/anq.2006.0016


This cultural analysis reconsiders the modernist narrative about the politics of whales and whale hunting in order to explore Icelandic responses to the return of the killer whale Keiko (star of the Free Willy movies) to Icelandic waters in 1998. Ambivalence about Keiko's plight required cultural creativity to block identification with the whale since in Icelandic hegemonic discourse such feelings have been associated with the supposed irrationality of foreign protests against whale hunting. This essay draws on Bruno Latour's writings about the politics of nature to argue for abandoning nature in a step toward the ethnographic study of human-nonhuman relations.

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