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‘Out of Time, Place, Scale’: Cryptozoology & Neocolonialism

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on October 10, 2010

Excerpts from the Fauxist Cryptozoology Project

Contents:

– Project outline & Cryptozoology Defined.

– Four Excerpts from: “Cryptozoology In Australia”:

– The Yowie, the Bunyip & ‘Pre-human Arcadia’: The Proto-cryptozoological Antipodes

– Survivors From the Dreamtime or Bad Karma of Colonisation?: Making The Soft Bunyip

– The Bunyip as Mega-Faunal Oral Memory: Colonial Projections in Cryptozoology

– ‘Wild Hairy Men’: Cryptozoology, Class and Masculinity in Australia and the USA

– Picture Essay excerpt: Mythic Sauroids & the Re-Creation of the Outside

– Botched taxidermy: ‘Non-descripts’, Jenny hanovers & the Collaged Cryptid


Cryptozoology Defined

“What is cryptozoology if not the quest for truth? And if this quest is completed, what the hell was the point if all the people are only willing to believe their own truth? It would be wonderful if every cryptid turned out to be real, but…..it wouldn’t. A lot of people would be famous for doing it, but…..it would be so empty…”   James Churchill

“The whole allure of cryptozoology is not only the search for the hidden, but the thrill of the hunt. People love things they can’t explain”. Alfred Hops

Cryptozoology is a scientific ethnoknown-targeted methodology for zoological discovery. Ethnoknown species are alleged animals with enough salience (observable characteristics) to be recognized as something distinctive or unknown, either by a native people group, or chance eyewitnesses. By definition, cryptozoology is the study of hidden or unknown animals, or “Cryptids” (a term for an animal under the cryptozoological microscope). In some cases, a cryptid may be well-known, or may only have been reported a handful of times. Commonly known cryptids include: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Loch Ness, the Yowie, the Yeti, the Chupacabra.

Cryptozoology is not recognized by the scientific community as a science. There are no degrees in it, and therefore, there is no such thing as an official cryptozoologist. This makes cryptozoology more of a hobby than it will ever be a science. The fact alone that anybody can do it makes it so controversial that the scientific community pours scorn upon it. Similarly, the field enjoys a measure of public disdain, due to its often tabloid/conspiracy theory aesthetic, and the eccentric antics of some of its proponents.

Entrance, International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, MA, USA

Catalogue for 'Cryptozoology: Out of Time, Place, Scale' Exhibition.

The publication illustrated above: “Cryptozoology: Out of Time, Place, Scale”, gives an idea of the classificatory uniqueness of the cryptid- as matter out of place, something stretching or breaking taxonomical categories, blending and even paroding the knowability of  characteristics, decentring, threatening. Like the former roles of many monsters and mythic creatures, the cryptid most often blurs the wild/tame, civilized/savage, real/imaginary, human/other, and modern/premodern dualisms, and functions as a trans-ing figure, a liminal appearance. Something too too, that would have found its place in the medieval bestiary, or cavorted with the strange beings of the antipodean imagination and the spirit realm. And as we will explore below, the cryptid, and indeed the cryptozoological ‘movement’ is an important figure in the neo-colonial imagination of ‘belonging’ to the landscape, a ‘re-animation’ of nature and appropriation of mythologies.

Less interesting then is debating the claims to truth and evidentiary ‘proof’ that such cryptozoological production foregrounds- the veracity of the Bigfoot footage, the Loch Ness photos, the Bunyip eyewitness stories- but rather the presumptions and tensions underpinning the construction and definition of the ‘field’, the ‘expedition’, the ‘opposition’ (scientific authority and a disbelieving public) and the various deployments of an animate, resistant Nature/non-urban space which ‘science cannot fully penetrate’ (to recall the logos of Francis Bacon, who would seem to occupy a simultaneously central and oppositional role in ‘modern’ cryptozoology). In other words,what is most important is not whether or not the Thylacine/Tasmanian Tiger still ‘exists’ or not, but rather what can be garnered from the hunt, the structures of ‘evidence’ and truth, the colonial-ecological politics, & so on. As such, when addressing the Thylacine, modern crytptozoology cites, updates and reopens the monstrous Other of Europe, the mappa mundi populated with monsters and antipodean freaks, continues the tradition in the colonies of fear of the wilderness & comes to replace the ceding of apparent physical and epistemological threat of the indigene.

Unconfirmed species served as an implicit ground of conflict and dialogue between untutored masses and educated elite, even prior to the rise of academic science as a unified body of expert consensus. The psychological significance of cryptozoology in the modern world has new facets, however: it now serves to channel guilt over the decimation of species and destruction of the natural habitat; to recapture a sense of mysticism and danger in a world now perceived as fully charted and over-explored; and to articulate resentment of and defiance against a scientific community perceived as monopolising the pool of culturally acceptable beliefs.

“Man, it is true, can, by combination, surmount all his real enemies, and become master of the whole of animal creation: But does he not immediately raise up to himself imaginary enemies, the daemons of his fancy …?”–David Hume

The cultural significance of contemporary cryptozoology bears many similarities to, as well as some important differences from, the cryptozoology of the premodern world. In a sense, it can be argued that the term “cryptozoology” is itself an anachronism when applied to pre-modern cultures. From the fifteenth century through the nineteenth century, discoveries of new lands and large new species continued to animate the natural sciences and inspire scientists with a sense of awe. The human relationship with physical, geographic space–and indeed, with the natural world–began to shift radically following the mid-nineteenth century, when the last pockets of substantially unexplored space were mapped and catalogued. By the start of the twentieth century, there were few large land-species left to be discovered. As a result, we were forced to confront the fact that we now knew, for the most part, what kinds of animals did and did not exist, and roughly what their populations and habitats were.

If there are entire species–large species, even–that have survived not only active human management, but even human detection, then we feel a little humbler about our ability to alter the natural biosphere and, perhaps, a little less guilty about the damage we have inflicted on it. It is significant that cryptozoologists devote much attention to extinct species in particular, exploring them as potential candidates for putative cryptids. This forms a bridge with the distant past, repopulating the landscape with living zoological treasures and symbolically reviving primordial eons otherwise known to us only through movies and books. The whole business of mass extinction seems less overwhelming and depressing in the face of mysteries left to be discovered.

There is a rugged sense of adventurism both in the methodology of cryptozoology and in the narrative descriptions of cryptid encounters. A familiar theme from accounts of bigfoot and other cryptid sightings is that, during a close encounter, the creature is just as startled as the human observer is–a chestnut drawn from popular naturalist expeditions purporting to observe animals in their natural habitats (such as the old television show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and, more recently, “Crocodile Hunter”). [24] By appealing to such tropes, cryptozoologists rhetorically assimilate themselves with the courageous first generation of naturalists who tracked down strange new species in poorly mapped regions. One cannot help but sense a nostalgia for bygone eras of scientific discovery in the cryptozoological community as a whole: as George Eberhart observes, “Cryptozoologists are reliving a time two centuries ago when all of zoology was in an age of discovery. This field preserves the spirit of those days” (Eberhart 2002, vol. 1, xxxi), and they recast familiar and over-trammelled terrain as wilderness.

Most central of all, however–the plesiosaur in the room, as it were–is the very mystique of para-science. Cryptozoology devotees consciously position themselves in defiance of mainstream science.  Whereas in the Middle Ages the educated scholar was as likely–or as unlikely–as an illiterate peasant to believe in a given unconfirmed species, in the post-Enlightenment world there is a conspicuous disconnect between academic science and popular belief on a surprisingly wide range of topics. The ubiquitous popular belief in ghosts, psychic ability, alien encounters, communication with the dead, and astrology, to name but a sampling of the “paranormal,” documents a resistance to the canons of belief doled out by the orthodox structures of contemporary academic science. In an age when evolutionary scientists have all but robbed Judeo-Christians of their account of creation, genetic engineering appears to threaten the sanctity and individuality of human life, and medical authorities continuously make the general populace feel guilty about those very hallmarks of an affluent leisure-society that it apparently treasures most (high-fat and high-sugar diet, recreational use of tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals, and inactivity), it is natural that an undercurrent of resistance to beliefs imposed from above by an academic elite should flourish. In such an atmosphere, the para-sciences will inevitably thrive, not just despite evidence to the contrary from the scientific community, but–more to the point–actively in spite of it. To be on to something that even the professors of Harvard do not know about, or to benefit from a cure of which the National Institutes of Health are ignorant, can be very empowering in an age of routine deference to higher bodies of institutional knowledge.

If science “disenchanted” the world as Max Weber famously claimed, deviant fields of study like cryptozoology, parapsychology and Ufology can offer a type of “re-enchantment” by introducing new mysterious forces into the world. A sighting of a cryptid is sometimes akin to what Rudolph Otto called “the wholly other,” an experience of both wonder and dread that takes on religious significance. In some cases, quasi-religious rites have formed around specific cryptids. Numerous rituals have been devised to summon Bigfoot and Nessie, often involving drums and chanting.

We find this to be the case: even a brief glance at paranormal apologetic literature reveals a pioneer enthusiasm, a notable relish at the chance to offer a counter-perspective against the allegedly closed-minded sycophants of institutional academic beliefs. Cryptozoology thus fulfils an important role: it represents a quest for magic and wonder in a world many perceive as having lost its mystique. Bernard Heuvelmans, the “Father of Cryptozoology,” has proposed our emotional response as a core feature of a cryptid: to count as a cryptid, an animal must have at least one trait “truly singular, unexpected, paradoxical, striking, emotionally upsetting, and thus capable of mythification” (Heuvelmans 1983, 5). [3] At the very least, cryptozoologists usually maintain that there must be a “minimum size” for a creature to count as having cryptozoological interest. Even a cursory scan through works of cryptozoology or through cryptozoological online message boards makes it clear that what is being sought is not simply the unknown–it is the formidable, the frightening, the monstrous. In this sense, cryptozoology is nothing new. In other words, there is undoubtedly a continuum behind the psychological need for folkloric monsters running from the ancient to the modern world.

Thus the Fauxists engage with cryptozoology not in order to ‘prove’ the existence of these phenomena, to scientifically verify or to debunk, but rather to unpack their cultural constructions and significance.

We endeavour to at once adhere to the often hallucinatory logic of the ‘science’, and also to fold this logical chicanery back into the field itself- that is, to regard cryptozoology from a cryptozoological viewpoint– and to see what results this produces.

(For further resources & links, see listing at the end of this post).

Project Outline

Beginning in late 2008, the Fauxists ‘Hooray For Cryptozoology’ Project continues at the time of publication.

In summary, this project seeks to investigate the following points:

– The idea of ‘matter out of place, place, scale’: The stretching or breaking taxonomical categories, blending characteristics, and the decentring, threatening, and blurring of the wild/tame, civilized/savage, colonized/pre-colonial dualisms in the cryptid and the cryptozoological ‘search’.

– How ‘out of place, time, scale’ figures in the relationship of cryptozoology to science.

– The important role of cryptozoology in the translation and differentiation of ‘mythologies’ (as pre/non-modern) and the ‘modern’ (civil, rational etc), and of the numerous frictions between belief/space-time systems in a colonial context.

– The cryptid’s role in the neo-colonial imagination of ‘belonging’ to the landscape, specifically how they facilitate an ostensible ‘re-animation’ of ‘nature/natural space’ in settler societies.

– The ‘soft bunyip’ and the ties of folkloric fear to colonial alienation. The ‘soft bunyip’ represents the settler appropriation of the bunyip, largely as a measure of their achieving a sense of belonging to the formerly alien environment, a crossover that was not effected without the bunyip losing some if the antediluvian mystery of its mythic stature.

– The cryptid’s- and especially the cryptid hominid- role as a trans-ing figure and liminal appearance, the ‘wild man’, always at the edges, fleeting, liminal and afraid, lures the trackers back into the forest, into glossolalia, fear.

– How the cryptid is made to ‘speak for’ the interpreter, as a critical comment on the failings of urban(e) modernity.

– Under the concept of ‘Botched Taxidermy’- exploring the creation of cryptozoololgical fakes, hoaxes and models, and the ‘holding to form’ of the animal under postmodernism, its echoes of the deconstruction of the category ‘natural’ and etc. the alignments of colonial belonging etc.

– The concept of ‘mythic sauroids’- those accounts of remnant terrestrial dinosaur populations, and their linkages to ideologies of colonialism and race (especially in the American west).

 

Cryptid Audio

A key part of the Fauxist Cryptozoology Project is audio recording, one of the central methods of gathering-capturing evidence and traces of cryptids in cryptozoology. This component is covered more fully in the ‘Hooray for Cryptozoology’ publication and the CD release of the same title (2010).

Trying to capture evidence of cryptids in audio form, using the analyses developed throughout the Fauxist Spirit Mic recording sessions project. Again, this work is not in order to ‘prove’ the existence of these phenomena, to scientifically verify, to debunk, but rather to unpack their cultural constructions and significance.  

The field of cryptid audio and documentation. The ‘sweeping’ of technology, carrying the torch, condensation into tape etc. The strange acts of chasing mythics, spirits and cryptids with handicams and Dictaphones, regimens of proof and anti-authority, folk-science. The act of recording and analysis of the tapes, the expeditions and intent. An important type of conspiratorial quasi-spiritual fringe science.

We endeavour to move beyond the literalisms of the cryptozoological genre/field by importing methodologies and theory from our Spirit Mic recording sessions and theory. (See publications HERE). In that there is a notable anthropocentric and anthropomorphic bias to almost all EVP work, We felt that a widening of the focus could be fruitful, reopening famous tapes and taking our own, especially those recorded in times and places of cryptid interest etc. And conversely, to use EVP methodology and theory to deliberately trouble the modern/ mythological division inherent to most cryptozoological work

Botched Taxidermy: ‘Non-descripts’, ‘Jenny Hanovers’ & the Collaged Cryptid

Steve Baker’s concept of ‘Botched Taxidermy’, as developed in “The Postmodern Animal” functions as a rather clumsy catch-all phrase for a variety of contemporary art practice that engages with the animal at some level or other. In some cases it involves taxidermy itself, but in all cases the animal, dead or alive, is present in all its awkward, pressing thing-ness. We think what many of these artists are doing in their presentation of the animal as some kind of clumsy compound of human and animal elements is to reinforce the notion that the comfortable, utopian conception of nature in which humans had unmediated access to animals and lived in some kind of unproblematic harmony with them does not look like a practical way forward, either in terms of how one thinks philosophically about them, or in terms of how on a practical level one might work for the improvement of their living conditions.

In theorizing the ‘Collaged Cryptid’- across the traditional visual media to that of cryptid audio- the history of  ‘Non-descripts’, Jenny hanovers & other hoax animals are of key interest to the Fauxists. This area is further developed in Our upcoming publication of the same name as this section.

The following links serve to give an idea of some contemporary practices we are exploring in this field:

MIR Gallery “Cryptozoology” Exhibition

Minnesota Rogue Taxidermy Association (& at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery– follow 2010 link to Rogue Taxidermy show )

The Urban Beast Project

Custom Creature Taxidermy

Gallery Of Globsters: Mysterious Marine Collage Cryptids

(for more on globsters, see Our publication on the Blobsquatch HERE)


The Bunyip


The bunyip is a conflation of many terms. The bunyip is a creature from ‘Dreamtime mythology’ of the ‘Australian Aboriginal’ people, also known as Yaa-loo, Dongu, Kine Pratie, Wowee-wowee, of which there have been a number of ‘modern’ sightings of creatures that have been classified as possible bunyips. It is most definitely a potential cryptid. According to the ‘mythological’ accounts, the bunyip was a malevolent water spirit, and are known for causing nocturnal terror by uttering horrible roaring cries and jumping out of water holes, rivers and creeks to attack and devour unwary animals and people that came to these places for a drink of water. Should anyone enter its lair- usually swamps and rivers- it would attack and devour them. The bunyip’s terrifying cry would lead people to abandon any water source where this was heard. The numerous versions of the bunyip don’t seem to have a fixed appearance, possibly because of its nature as a spirit. Common features include a tail, flippers and tusks. The dread which it engendered obviously led to a seeming inability to describe it.

The ‘Modern’ Bunyip

The bunyip stories from recent times paint a less fearsome picture. Instead of a maneater it is seen as a shy grazing creature. By the 1850’s, it had moved from the realm of the supernatural to one of common derision- ‘Bunyip’ became a synonym for ‘imposter’, ‘humbug’ etc. Formed a cautionary tale for settler children about the dangers of the bush, and perhaps a paranoid guilty vision of un-belonging for the settlers (the landscape literally swallowing up their children).

Bunyip sightings were most common during the 19th century. There were also some sightings during the twentieth century, though these were less frequent. Two different types of bunyip have been reported: most contemporary bunyips are described as being “dog-faced”, however a few sightings describe a long-necked creature with a pointed head. This is clearly a different creature. While descriptions of the bunyip vary, most portray a creature with a hairy horse-like head and large body.

Thus, if we follow the logic of most cryptozoologists, in assuming that the ‘modern’ bunyip sightings really are sightings ofsomething– ie Not a ‘spirit’- various theories arise. One is that many modern “bunyip” sightings were simply fugitives in hiding or vagrants living wild. This rather less exciting theory would fit in with the increased number of bunyip sightings during the depression of the 1930s. Another, more common theory holds that the Bunyip ‘myth’ is based on indigenous cultural memories of extinct mega-fauna species.

The bunyip as Mega-faunal Oral Memory: Colonial Projections in Cryptozoology

What is the Bunyip? As is often the case in the field of cryptozoology, a survivor from the dinosaur era is a strong contender (see section on ‘Mythic Sauroids’ below). The suggestion is that perhaps a diprotodon species could somehow have survived and be roaming the bush. The Australian diprotodon lived through the Pleistocene epoch and coexisted with the early humans.

Perhaps more ‘realistically’, it was first theorized in the 1840’s (and is frequently asserted today) that Aboriginal stories about the bunyip may reflect oral traditions of encounters with the diprotodon, a rhinosceros-sized herbivore and the largest marsupial ever to have existed. Diprotodon is believed to have become extinct between 15-20,000 years ago.

Survivors From the Dreamtime or Bad Karma of Colonisation?: Making The Soft Bunyip (excerpt)

Early European settlers, unfamiliar with the sights and sounds of the island continent’s peculiar fauna, regarded the bunyip as one more strange Australian animal, and sometimes attributed unfamiliar calls or cries to it. At one point, the discovery of a strange skull in an isolated area associated with these ‘bunyip calls’ seemed to provide physical evidence of the bunyip’s existence. Though as European exploration of Australia proceeded, the bunyip increasingly began to be regarded as a mythical animal. Settler authorities also wanted to avoid any folkloric fears and monsters to establish the new nation as a scientific authority within the empire.

After a century of colonialism, and exposure to aboriginal folklore, as well as to the mystery of a strange land, colonial Australians had effectively appropriated the story of the bunyip. In some ways this was a measure of their achieving a sense of belonging to the formerly alien environment. Though it must be said that the crossover was not effected without the bunyip losing some if the antediluvian mystery of its mythic stature. By turning an amused eye on the bunyip, the settlers were able to deflate their terror of the bush and even scoff at their fears, in the process the bunyip became a figure of gentler habits more likely to find a place in the fantasy world of children’s books. In another way, in subsuming the bunyip’s horror, and indeed its pedagogic narrative, colonial culture turned the bunyip into a harmless and quirky national emblem of the nation’s uniqueness.

‘Wild Hairy Men’: Cryptozoology, Class and Masculinity in Australia and the USA

If wildmen are not a universal myth, then they are close. The “hairy man” or giant probably meant different things to different pre-modern societies. In the contemporary world, however, bigfoot has been read as a reflection of ourselves: we perpetuate bigfoot beliefs from an apparent psychological need to crystallise fascination with primitivism and animalism into a concrete symbol (Gilmore 2003, 73-4; Daegling 2004, 259). In Pliny’s accounts, looking out from the mediterranean empire, for example, wildmen stood in for fears and beliefs about other races and peoples, existing as cannibals, and disgusting, malformed, contradictory, stupendous figures of humanity, or signs of god’s wrath. By the 19th century, the category of wildmen had been “carved up and explained away” (Buhs, 5) by rational science, and wildmen still existed but only inside the human psyche, partly because scientists etc said they didn’t.  Given the different role of the scientific community in contemporary culture, the social significance of borderland monsters is also different in the modern world.
Buhs explores how Bigfoot captured many of the ‘lost values’ of white, working-class men in the U.S- such as strength, survival, independance, wildness, stoicism (silence?), connection to nature, essentialized sexuality, and a capacity to endure- becoming for many enthusiasts a way of reclaiming dignity in a world that denied it. (Buhs, 20). In tracing the pop-cultural affect of Bigfoot, he examines a move from popular culture (characterized by the wildmen of P.T Barnum’s showman tours- a cryptid/actor seen in the flesh and interacted with) to mass culture (magazines, TV, where the cryptid further ‘dematerialized’) (Buhs, 15). For the working-class enthusiasts mentioned above,  cryptid hominids seemingly asserted a reality behind the fakeness and performative spectacle of mass media, where consumption, ‘feminine’ practices, and a cult of personality (replacing one of character) increasingly dictated style and value.

"Bigfoot": "Breeds With Anything..."

In a time of destabilization of class, race and gender roles, changing work practices, Bigfoot also congealed the fears of the enthusisasts- bigfoot would ravish women, sodomize men and acted as an epistemic foil for racial anxiety- all things that revealed the fragility of their masculinity. (Buhs, 162). Thus Bigfoot can be seen as idolized and feared- as hope for a better world. “they prized it as the epitome of authenticity but had to make do with replicas. They wanted to be it, and- often anyway- wanted it to remain free, away from them.” (Buhs, xvi)

Bourgeois Bigfoot & the Green Man

In something similar to the ‘softening’ of the bunyip discussed above, Bigfoot left the realm of an anti-scientific paranoiac, conspiracy-tinged ‘protest masculinity’ and began to be adopted as an icon for a new middle class evironmental consciousness that increasingly saw nature as a leisure commodity and vehicle for self-knowledge. The same nature that the working-class loggers and rural men worked became something to be saved, ‘experienced’ and benignly interrogated for enlightenment. Thus, necessarily reframed as a speaker for a yearning for a repressed wildness (Jungian), the bourgeois bigfoot became less challenging, not violent, not as sexual, and not as awesome, while becoming increasingly ethereal. (Buhs, 232)

Bigfoot as Spokesperson for Nature

Harry, the Family Bigfoot from 1987's 'Harry & the Hendersons'

Taken up by mythopoetic movements- like those conjured by Robert Bly & books like “Women who Run With The Wolves”- Bigfoot promised access to the inner wildman/woman, acted as nursemaid and angel, healing the wounds inflicted by mass culture and urban life (Buhs, 234)  and offered a message, an enticement for people to ‘leave civilization’. Robert michael Pyle’s “Where Bigfoot Walks” for example argues that bigfoot was an incarnation “of nature, the earth, and all that is green and contrary to control” (my italics)

In this way, the cryptid hominid came increasingly to mimic the the mythic Green Man– creatures that could often communicate with animals, nature spirits etc.- and act as a symbol of ‘green spirituality’ (Buhs, 238), mourning and so on. Thus the ‘hunt’ for the wildman  came less and less like ‘man confronting the monstrous’, and more like a case of humankind making contact with another sentient being. (Buhs, 252)

Bigfoot Christ, circa 2008

See also:

Shackley, Myra L  “Wildmen : yeti, sasquatch and the Neanderthal enigma” Thames and Hudson, c1983.

Bord, Janet  “The evidence for Bigfoot and other man-beasts”  Sterling, 1984.

Marjorie M. Halpin, Michael M. Ames. “Manlike monsters on trial : early records and modern evidence” University of British Columbia Press, 1980.

McLeod, Michael   “Anatomy of a beast : obsession and myth on the trail of Bigfoot”  University of California Press, c2009.

Coleman, Loren. “Tom Slick and the search for the Yeti”  Boston : Faber and Faber, 1989

Buhs, Joshua Blu  “Bigfoot : the life and times of a legend”  University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Picture Essay excerpt: Mythic Sauroids & the Creation of the Outside


Newspaper articles on Mythic Sauroids- the contention that there are still dinosaurs surviving in non-urban/non-colonised space-time (eg. the above examples locate the possibility in the North Pole, ‘Jungle Wilds’ and ‘Africa). See ‘The Last Dinosaur Book’ for a full investigation of the remnant dinosaur’s role in the colonial imaginary (specifically in the American West).

The Yowie, the Bunyip  in Pre-human Arcadia: The Proto-cryptozoological Antipodes

The hypothesized Antipodean continent- Terra Australis- was seen as an empty, inverted space; a blank canvas or tabula rasa inviting European ‘inscription’ and dominance, (Ryan, 105), existing as a necessary physical and psychic mass to balance and countervalue the hemispheres, it was thus a land of hermaphrodites, antipodean people whose heads grew beneath their shoulders or walked upside-down etc, and mythic, monstrous animals.

Thus we can understand the strength of the explorer narrative as the dominant spatial relationship and hystory of many colonies.

Writing of ‘Australia’’s general inferiority to Britian, the early settlers often saw the ‘native’ ‘Australia’n animals, plants and landscape as impoverished and dangerous, at least as impediments to their stock and crops, and to their familiar categories and tastes- there were no ‘suitable’ hunting animals, pouches etc. Descriptions of the melancholic monotony of gum trees and the ‘interminable’ forests were to become clichéd (Bonyhady, 73 Powell, 13). The evergreen and ‘unattractive’ trees could not show or become the source of “all the dearest allegories of human life”, (Bonyhady, 72) of the rebirth and recessions of seasonal change (autumnal decline, spring rebirth etc) the European was accustomed to.

So, troubled by the “Savage silence” of the ‘Australian bush, a place still animated by antipodean monsters, dangerous savages, conceptual vacuum, and animal life that were inversions of european taxonomical categories and aesthetics, and used to the open spaces and controlled vistas of a long-composed nature, (the bush was foreboding- blocking views and surveillance- and literally animated by the threat of aboriginal ambushers waiting around settlements and cottages, (Bolton, 58, Bonyhady, Attwood, 106-7) the space of nature becoming the walls of the prison colony, of which the indigenous peoples were an extension (Hughes, 1, 94)- the early settlers/colonists felt that they were rightfully and appropriately civilizing ‘Australia’n nature, naming and knowing, ordering and dividing it to control their own fears.

The “unclassifiable and morphologically abominable” (Franklin, 14) animals- like the platypus, kangaroo, echidna, thylacine- were perhaps the best metaphors for the strangeness and upsidedowness of ‘Australia’ for the new colonial culture. Animals that existed outside European taxonomical conventions and cultural stories/experience seemed conveniently to mirror the ‘reject’, ‘deviant’ and ‘undeserving’ status of the convict colony, and were often seen as a failed experiment or whimsical afterthought of (Christian) God, (Franklin, 26) the ‘strange scribblings of Nature learning how to write’.

In the imperial-scientific expansion of the time, 18th and 19th century ‘Australia’ was seen as a ‘palaeontological penal colony’, a faunal backwater, ‘the attic of the earth’, or a land of living fossils (Paddle, 207) like the marsupials (thylacine and kangaroo), the monotremes (platypus and echidna), a reading that was mirrored in the placement of the indigenous peoples in a receding, outmoded past. Such a narrative validated the rights of an invasive science and the colonizers to take land and displace the strange and useless animals, and those whose lives and cultures were associated with them, and established, through ‘Australian’ animals/nature/humanity viewed as retrogressive, the views of the land and the necessity of its ‘civilisation’.

Colonies were also convenient stages for the projection of an inverted and fantastical Europe (Ryan, 107), a space animated by creatures and practices that elicited that mix of desire and disgust so common to relations with an ‘Other’ (see Said, de Beauvoir, Fanon etc). The fascination with sexual difference and sexual lives (real, apparent or projected) of other cultures populated and elaborated in these spaces, and evidence collected from colonial encounters- whether evidence of polygamy, homosexuality, differing incest ‘taboos’, the polygamous sexual utopias of the ‘South Seas’, the lascivious black sexuality, the transgressive desire of the cannibal- created a space of desire and apparent difference or freedom existing outside of European and Christian moral control, which rendered European sexual prohibitions increasingly arbitrary. (Spencer, 220)

Thus speculation and classification of, colonial nature exhibits a proto-zoological character, and indeed is a direct antecedent in many way of the cryptozoological genre.

In Our associate Cryptozoological publications Yearning for a (re)animate nature: Faunal Colonialism in Cryptozoology and the Case of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).” (2010), & “Australia’s Bigfoot: The Yowie” (2010) We explore the case of the Thylacine and Yowie, and their treatment in the contemporary Cryptozoological field in some depth, & as such, here will provide a shorter piece on another notable cryptid, the Bunyip.




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