The Politics of Wildlife in Infrastructure Construction
Across many construction projects, and especially infrastructure projects, efforts to mitigate the potential loss of biodiversity and habitat are significant, and at times controversial. In our paper we do not propose to gauge the success or failure of this effort; rather we are interested in fleshing out some conceptual approaches via Actor-Network Theory through which infrastructure projects can start to address a series of overlooked questions. Some of these questions are firmly located within the realm of construction project management: are animals considered project risks or stakeholders; is wildlife always simply a retrospective cost to a project or can it proactively benefit a project, can we ever manage wildlife, and if so how? These questions in turn lead us to engage with wider debates found in the margins between the social and biological sciences on the distinction between Nature and Politics: to what extent should we seek a place for animals in politics and how can we live with them ethically. Thus far, very little research has addressed the interplay of humans and animals within construction projects. Instead those interested in the politics and ethics of human-animal relations, or Animal Studies, have focussed far more on stable and contained sites, whether organisations like zoos, farms or laboratories, or other places like homes and parks. These largely ethnographic studies inevitably perhaps downplay the unplanned, unexpected and highly politically and ethically charged collision of hitherto rather separate human and animal geographies. Yet, as we argue here, it is often along such colliding spaces, where animal geographies are unexpectedly found at the heart of human projects, that we ask and answer many of the above questions around our respect and response to both animals, and indeed other humans. In this paper we will examine such encounters conceptually, with reference to two infrastructure projects, and discuss their relevance to both construction project management and broader work on the politics of animals.
Construction Management and Economics, 2013, p. 839-848