New AHRC Project Will Challenge Perceptions of Britain's Flora and Fauna

Dr. Phillip Shaw is co-investigator of a new AHRC project called 'Exploring the Easter E.g. - Shifting Baselines and Changing Perceptions of Cultural and Biological Aliens.'

Dr. Phillip Shaw is co-investigator of a new AHRC project called 'Exploring the Easter E.g. - Shifting Baselines and Changing Perceptions of Cultural and Biological Aliens.' He will be working alongside Principle Investigator Dr. Naomi Sykes (Archaeology, Nottingham) and Dr. Gregor Larson (Archaeology and History of Art, Oxford).

The project will focus on the iconic festival of Easter. The animals associated with Easter - the brown hare, rabbit and chicken - are all "alien" to Britain. Even so, these animals are viewed positively because they arrived on the British isles in the distant past.  

Ancient migrations of people, ideas and animals are widely celebrated and incorporated into expressions of British cultural identity. However, the more recent the migrations, the more negative the attitudes towards them. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in discussions about 'native' versus 'alien' status, be it in relation to animals, people, or religious ideologies. In general, native is perceived as positive and 'natural', whereas the term 'alien' is attached negatively to cultural and environmental problems. "Shifting baseline" refers to the phenomenon whereby people consider the socio-environmental circumstances of their childhood to be 'natural' and morally absolute. In the absence of deeper historical and archaeological understanding, these nostalgic ideals are adopted blindly (and often erroneously) as the foundation for decision-making both at a personal level and more broadly in science and policy. This project sets out to investigate the role of shifting baselines and their impact on the value-judgements placed on 'native' and 'alien' animals, people and ideologies through the culturally and religiously potent example of Easter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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