Zootopia: Utopia and Dystopia in the Zoological Garden
University at Buffalo Law School
November 30, 2011
EARTH PERFECT? NATURE, UTOPIA, AND THE GARDEN, Annette Giesecke and Naomi Jacobs, eds., May 2012
Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-038
In this essay I coin the term 'zootopia' to express the utopian and the dystopian impulses at work at the zoo and to allude to their tightly intertwined nature. The essay's first section explores zootopia as a paradise, a place where people live in harmony with a romanticized nature. Simultaneously, zootopia is also a rational project that involves careful planning and detailed control over both animals and their habitat. Finally, the zoo is a theme park: a garden for human entertainment and consumption. In order to survive, the zoo must sell tickets, animal figurines and sponsorships, crackers for feeding the elephants, giraffe art, and the like. Ultimately, the zoo's presentation of nature is utopian, in the sense that it confirms current ideals and makes room for hope about nature's future. However, the awe and amusement that this visitor experiences at the utopian zoo are often overlaid with the fear and guilt implied by the dystopian message that is also present in this space.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: anthrozoology, zootopia, utopia and dystopia, zoo gardens, animal studies, animal geographies, consumption
Date posted: November 29, 2011 ; Last revised: June 27, 2013
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