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Nostalgia, the Fleeting, and the Rare in Chilean Relationships to Nature and Nonhuman Species

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Department of Ecology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChileSchool for Geography and the Environment, Oxford UniversityOxfordUnited Kingdommeredith.root-bernstein@bios.au.dk
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Semi-structured interviews and participant observation were used to understand how urban Chileans form relationships with nature and nonhuman species in central Chile. Most informants expressed dislike of the typical mediterranean-habitat landscape, characterizing it as dry, poor, and empty. Yet many people expressed nostalgic attachment to specific places, species, and activities that they had experienced, often as children. Most of the reminisced-about interactions were fleeting or had been lost over time. In the dominant discourse, nature in the mediterranean zone of Chile is closely associated with poverty, and it is considered to lack beauty, biodiversity, culture, and history. Appeals to personal nostalgia may break through this discourse to form private assemblages of value. Chileans also attributed social value to interactions with species who are rare or who are found “exclusively” in Chile. Appeals to nostalgia, rarity, and exclusivity help to draw these private discourses into the public realm.

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