Across the world, animals are being domesticated at an unprecedented rate and scale. But what exactly is domestication, and what does it tell us about ourselves? In Crocodile Undone, Marcus Baynes-Rock seeks the common thread linking stories about the domestication of Australia's native animals, arguing that domestication is part of a process by which late modernity threatens to undo the world.
In a deeply personal account, the author tells of his encounters with crocodiles and emus behind fences, dingoes and kangaroos crossing boundaries, and native bees producing honey in his suburban backyard. Drawing on comparisons between Aboriginal and colonial Australians, Baynes-Rock reveals how the domestication of Australia's fauna is a process of "unmaking". As an extension of late modernity, the connections that tie humans and other animals to wider ecologies are being severed, threatening to isolate us and our domesticates from the rest of the world. It is here that Baynes-Rock reveals a key difference between Aboriginal and colonial Australian modes of landscape management: while one is focused on a systemic approach and sees humans as integral to ecological integrity, the other seeks to sever domesticates from ecological processes. The question that emerges is: How might we reconfigure and maintain these connections without undoing humanity?
Written in the author's characteristically frank, passionate, and humorous style, Crocodile Undone takes the reader on a journey across both physical and philosophical landscapes. This fascinating narrative will appeal to anyone interested in the vital connections between humans and animals.
Foreword: Undoing the World?
1. The Great Unmaking
3. Stingless Bees
Marcus Baynes-Rock is the author of Among the Bone Eaters, also published by Penn State University Press.
"Part memoir, part travel writing that introduces readers to unexpected landscapes filled with fascinating and well-drawn characters, part contribution to emerging discussions of multispecies ethnography, and part scholarly critique of the literature of domestication. Crocodile Undone is a stunning, compassionate, and thought-provoking study."
– Nigel Rothfels, author of Elephant House
"Baynes-Rock raises fundamental questions about private property, the fallacies of economics, and the wisdom of ecology. The challenges may be great, but at least this book presents ideas and possibilities that may help us face them."
– Piers Locke, author of Conflict, Negotiation, and Coexistence: Rethinking Human-Elephant Relations in South Asia