Introduction: Captured: The Animal Within Culture
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In 2006 a clip was posted on YouTube which was to become a worldwide sensation. The clip showed footage of an emotional reunion between two men and a lion edited from a film made in 1971. A few years later another version of the clip was posted on YouTube, this time overdubbed with an audio track of Whitney Houston singing the hit song 'I will always love you' and with captions at the bottom of the screen which told the story of how the two young men in the clip bought a lion cub in Harrods, kept him as a pet, then, eventually, rehomed him in Kenya on conservationist George Adamson's Kora Reserve. The clip ends with the caption: 'Love knows no limits and true friendships last a lifetime. Get back in touch with someone today. You'll be glad you did.' This multi-media experience went viral, and has by now captured the attention of more than 100 million viewers.
Key themes of Captured: The Animal within Culture are encapsulated in the story of Christian the lion's journey from Harrods 'Zoo' to Kenya: the physical captivity of animals in relation to the ways in which they are caught in the dynamics of human-animal relations - whether as commodities trafficked for profit or spectacle, as subjects of scientific or artistic endeavour, or pressed into metaphoric reflections of various human conditions. What are the implications for the lived reality of animals when they are· all but erased in cultural representations and interpretations which figure them as 'the animal' and in service of human subjectivity?
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