The University of Arizona

They call them 'good-luck polka dots': disciplining bodies, bird biopower, and human-animal relationships at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Teresa Lloro-Bidart


The Aquarium of the Pacific is a 501(c)3 institution in the United States, beholden to ticket sales for its survival. In this article I show how its staff, and its animals, co-participate in an "edutainment" project, where the institution governs the bodies of Lorikeets through regulatory technologies crafted to ensure guests have a satisfying experience and become more conservation-minded. In this way, the Lorikeets are politically deployed to support the fiscal survivability of the institution, and in its conservation education project that imagines visitors as "advanced liberal" consumers, insofar as they choose their edutainment experiences and their environmentally responsible behaviors. The resulting guest-Lorikeet interactions promote sanitized encounters with wildness, limiting the development of empathic human-animal relationships. Staff, however, do develop empathic and intersubjective relationships with the birds.

Keywords: biopolitics, biopower, green governmentality, human-animal relationships, person-based identification, egomorphism, Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus)

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