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Project Description:

In recent decades, concern about species considered endangered has increased worldwide. From bush meat to whaling, the consumption of some species provokes what can be considered cultural conflicts, with the defenders of so-called traditional practices often clashing with international NGOs. Together, these conflicts concerning the protection and consumption of animals articulate three core domains of today’s anthropological research: the studies of moral economies; globalization processes; and the nature of human-nonhuman relationships. The present research proposal aims to examine these three issues by focusing on one central dimension: their affective economy. The intention is to approach the question of wildlife protection and consumption with reference to the feelings the issue generates amongst various groups of actors, and to examine how these sentiments can be linked to these groups’ material conditions of life. The chosen ethnographic research case for this study is the international trade of seahorses. This trade takes place between a country considered as "a hotspot of biodiversity": Madagascar ; and a country often accused of endangering species for its traditional cuisine and medicine: China. Following the international trade of these animals' bodies, this study aims to examine the way the people involved in seahorse trade, seahorse consumption, or seahorse protection (namely Malagasy fishermen, Chinese merchants, Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors and consumers, and international nature conservation NGOs) charge this animal with affective meaning within their own lives. Taking this specific trade as a lens to understand how, and in what material, political, and humane conditions, various forms of attachment to wildlife develop, this research promises to examine globalization processes at the level of individuals’ feelings.