Culture

The wolf unravels as a knot of cultural clashes

"Wolf: A natural and cultural creature" was the topic of anthropologist Garry Marvin's lecture at the Sociology Assembly at the University of Pristina on Tuesday

"Wolf: A natural and cultural creature" was the topic of anthropologist Garry Marvin's lecture at the Sociology Assembly at the University of Pristina on Tuesday

"In some cultures they are killed, people are afraid of them, they are negative figures. Meanwhile, in other cultures they are exalted and admired as animals. For example, in a hunter-gatherer society in North America, in Siberia, some indigenous groups, their identity is embodied with the wolf, their collective myth is that they as a group were formed after a werewolf began to live with them, so they believe that they were created as humans through the wolf", was just one of the conclusions given by the English anthropologist, Garry Marvin, in his lecture in Pristina

Cultural symbolism, folklore and ecological importance have been the three elements with which meaning has been given to a living being - the wolf. In the scientific lecture, the entire complex character of this animal was laid out, which is not limited only to being such. 

Anthropologist Garry Marvin, professor of studies on human-animal relations in the Department of Human Life Sciences at the University of Roehampton in London, became part of the Sociology Assembly in the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Philosophy with the scientific lecture where he mentioned the "wolf" as a subject cultural. The way a creature like this has shaped and is shaped by human perceptions in different eras and societies was the focus of the almost half-hour lecture on Tuesday.  

"I am very grateful that we had the opportunity as the Department of Sociology to share your expertise with our students, so today we wanted to share this work with the general public", said Linda Gusia from the Department of Sociology, at the opening of the lecture. 

In fact, it was only as a starting point to delve further into the theory behind this intriguing topic, which arouses curiosity beyond the academic circles of the relevant fields of study, so its character was thought to be open. 

Marvin received his first degree from the University of East Anglia in 1974, and his PhD from the University of Wales, Swansea in 1982. "Bullfighting: A Study of Human and Animal Nature in Andalusia" has been the subject of which he would receive the highest academic title. Between 1986 and 1996 he worked as a researcher and producer for television documentary programs and made films on fox hunting, bullfighting, religious movements in India, American football, Chinese exercise systems, social and cultural changes in Spain, and other subjects. . But the main focus of his scholarly work is on human-animal relations, writing mainly about bullfighting, cockfighting and zoos. His activity has recently branched out from anthropological fieldwork on foxhunting in England, and he is now writing a book on the culture and meaning of foxhunting. What he had chosen to share with those present in his lecture at the University of Pristina was the research work on the study of the cultural history of the wolf.

This discussion has not only highlighted the complex social behaviors and ecological roles of wolves, but also raised questions about a dialogue – which can often be considered exclusively environmentalist – about contemporary challenges between the relationship and ongoing conflict between humans and wolves as beings.

Wolves have been portrayed as both noble and villainous in various cultures throughout human development. In many Native American traditions, they are seen as powerful animals that carry values ​​of loyalty, while in European folklore, they are often depicted as dangerous predators and evil incarnate. Starting from this, it turns out that people do not actually coexist with biological creatures, but with beings that are created culturally, Garry Marvin's lecture is based on similar premises.  

According to him, the social and cultural construct that is attached to certain animals has a direct impact on them and the way they are treated. He started the lecture with an example that illustrated this idea. 

"It's a type of red wolf in Southeast America that's supposed to be endangered but it's not protected, but other wolves are. Whereas scientists there are now saying that actually this type of wolf is a hybrid between a wolf and a coyote, and so as a result of that, this type of wolf is not protected anymore, you can legally hunt it in that part of America. So, their cultural construction is very important", said Marvin, in the lecture entitled "Wolf: A natural and cultural creature" based on the author's book entitled "Wolf", where it was explained how wolves historically they have been valued and insulted, in different spaces and places, in different cultures and societies.

Sharing details of his motivation for studying the issue, he revealed how he had always been intrigued by the emotions that wolves evoke in humans. 

"In some cultures they are killed, people are afraid of them, they are negative figures. Meanwhile, in other cultures they are exalted and admired as animals. For example, in a hunter-gatherer society in North America, in Siberia, some indigenous groups embody their identity with the wolf, their collective myth is that they as a group were formed after a werewolf began to live with them, so they believe that they were created as humans through the wolf", he said, citing examples that illustrate the fact that the wolf is the same creature, but with different perceptions and experiences about it. 
An important part of Marvin's work turns out to be an examination of how wolves reflect values, fears and ethical issues among human societies. The wolf becomes a symbol through which people project various issues, such as conservation of nature, protection of livestock and fear of the wild, the unknown. 

Another point of discussion in this lecture was the role of Aesop's fables in creating the figure of the wolf that Western societies know today. The perception of the wolf as an antagonistic figure appears likely through various historical narratives, but it does not leave religious ones aside either, especially Christian dogma and liturgical texts.  

"Jesus Christ himself is usually presented as a shepherd among sheep and through him it is shown how the sheep are vulnerable animals and considering the wolf as an ideal figure to portray the evil of man. Jesus Christ himself describes this relationship with a certain vigilance and protection for the sheep from the wolf, from the 'evil'. Even in the religious writings it is said that Christ sends people into the world as sheep among wolves", he said, adding that there the figure of the wolf is dressed with features that build qualities equal to gluttony. According to him, people need living things that represent their perceptions, in this case they take animals and clothe them with qualities and traits that portray the bad in their lives.

He also elaborated on the interpretation of the wolf as an animal in the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood", while through the designed presentation he provided the attendees with references, real images such as engravings, paintings, photographs and other visual materials that illustrate the theory. 

"There are many versions of this tale, where the wolf is just a wolf, where he appears dressed as a man, but the unusual thing here is that the wolf does not kill Little Red Riding Hood, in fact he gets into bed with her, after he kills and eats her grandmother her, and tells Little Red Riding Hood come to bed with me. So now here it is presented as a sexual abuser", he said, also sharing information about how many cultures in the world present the wolf as a figure that coincides with the loss of virginity.  

Otherwise, Marvin, at the very end, has also discussed efforts to preserve wolves, especially in the face of conflicts between humans and wolves and cultural perceptions to the detriment of their existence as animals.  

"At the center of the human-wolf conflict, there is not simply a wild animal that can live on its own, it is actually the wolf, a creature that has carried cultural history. This creature is not just a creature made of flesh and blood, it is not a canis lupus, but it is a creature of human moral, economic, political, aesthetic, emotional issues of designs and issues that dictate the way of life as they have done for hundreds years. So whether wolves will be able to live, what kind of them, how and where, the fate of wolves is that it has always been a very powerful and very potent creature for humans, and the future depends on how different people and societies decide to address it", Marvin concluded his lecture at the Sociology Assembly, which aims to be a conversation between sociology and sister sciences, but aims to make the discussions on this level accessible to the non-academic community as well.