Orcas are among the world’s most charismatic animals, combining grace and power, violent when they need to be, but rarely toward humans and never in the wild. Attacks on humans have been restricted to captive orcas, opening up widespread discussions on the ethics of marine-mammal captivity and prompting major changes to the North American orca-display industry, as represented by corporate giants such as SeaWorld. Orcas are now more likely to be followed online than watched either in captivity or in the wild, with some individual orcas becoming celebrity targets for activist campaigning. This article assesses some of the different ways that orcas are being “followed” today, showing how the figure of the celebrity orca offers an opportunity to reflect both on the performative nature of celebrity and on the continuing human exploitation of performing animals, which is tied in with the depredations of the modern corporate world.
Killers: Orcas and Their Followers
Graham Huggan teaches in the School of English at the University of Leeds, in the United Kingdom. Most of his research over the past decade has been in the cross-disciplinary field of environmental humanities, as reflected in recent publications such as the cowritten Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (2010; 2nd ed., 2015) and the monograph Nature’s Saviours: Celebrity Conservationists in the Television Age (2013).
Graham Huggan; Killers: Orcas and Their Followers. Public Culture 1 May 2017; 29 (2 (82)): 287–309. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-3749069
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