Zooland: The Institution of Captivity

Zooland: The Institution of Captivity, Stanford University Press, 2012

SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-038

34 Pages Posted: 11 May 2013 Last revised: 21 May 2013

See all articles by Irus Braverman

Irus Braverman

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: 2012


This book takes a unique stance on a controversial topic: zoos. Zoos have their ardent supporters and their vocal detractors. And while we all have opinions on what zoos do, few people consider how they do it. Irus Braverman draws on more than seventy interviews conducted with zoo managers and administrators, as well as animal activists, to offer a glimpse into the otherwise unknown complexities of zooland.

Zooland begins and ends with the story of Timmy, the oldest male gorilla in North America, to illustrate the dramatic transformations of zoos since the 1970s. Over these decades, modern zoos have transformed themselves from places created largely for entertainment to globally connected institutions that emphasize care through conservation and education.

Zoos naturalize their spaces, classify their animals, and produce spectacular experiences for their human visitors. Zoos name, register, track, and allocate their animals in global databases. Zoos both abide by and create laws and industry standards that govern their captive animals. Finally, zoos intensely govern the reproduction of captive animals, carefully calculating the life and death of these animals, deciding which of them will be sustained and which will expire. Zooland takes readers behind the exhibits into the world of zoo animals and their caretakers. And in so doing, it turns its gaze back on us to make surprising interconnections between our understandings of the human and the nonhuman.

Keywords: zoos, nature, pastoral power, care, technologies of governance, critical animal studies, animal geographies, anthrozoology, zoogeography and immersion, politics of nature, panopticon and exhibition, Michel Foucault, ethnography, zoo design, classification, Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Suggested Citation

Braverman, Irus, Zooland: The Institution of Captivity (2012). Zooland: The Institution of Captivity, Stanford University Press, 2012, SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-038, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2263361

Irus Braverman (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-3030 (Phone)
716-645-2064 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~irusb/

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