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'A place for everything': moral landscapes of 'swiftlet farming' in George Town, Malaysia

By C. Connolly

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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.

Publication Title Geoforum
Volume 77
Pages 182-191
ISBN/ISSN 0016-7185
Language English
Author Address Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260, Singapore.ariccp@nus.edu.sg
Tags
  1. Agriculture
  2. Animals
  3. APEC countries
  4. Aquacultural and fisheries
  5. ASEAN Countries
  6. Asia
  7. Birds
  8. Business
  9. Commonwealth
  10. Countries
  11. Developing countries
  12. Farms
  13. Landscape
  14. Malaysia
  15. Nations
  16. stakeholders
  17. Threshold
  18. vertebrates
  19. Zoology