The Dirty Nature of Paternalistic Care

The world is increasingly controlled through administration, but it is not often a productive process as it claims to be. It is the exploitation of ideas of harm in order to gain control of resources. Paternalistic ‘democratic’ and ‘caring’ processes are at the very heart of this exploitation.


Environmental administration involves protecting wild and domestic animals whilst culling harmful animals. To determine the key relation that creates animals that are protected for hunting and animals that are culled, I examine the annual shooting of corvids in Northern Cyprus based on 17 months of participant observation and archival research. A message of care permeates the environmental administration of these human-animal relations giving them legitimacy. However, despite the absence of technical, ecological, social and political evaluation, as well as the failure of the paternalistic medium in which this care is embedded, this administrative medium continues. I argue that corvids’ behavioural nature challenges paternalistic care as well as culling being an inappropriate term to use in the absence of aforementioned evaluations. Instead, I suggest the term wasting. I then argue that this wasting of certain animals is a key part of employing paternalistic care, but that it is incumbent upon people who use state administration and aspire to a modernist horizon. I conclude by introducing how to heal the failures of paternalistic care through drawing on autochthonous relations embedded in the medium of community rather than administrative statehood.

[IN REVIEW] Avi, KAVBH. (2020) Wasted: The Dirty Nature of Paternalistic Care. With Worldwide Waste Journal, Special Issue on ‘Dirty places: geographies of waste’.

Key words: Ruined Landscape, Environmental Administration, Paternalistic Care, Culling, Hunting Studies, Waste


Introduction to Cypruses

Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea with a resident population approaching 1.2 million (UN 2019). This does not take into consideration the large numbers of migrants including diasporas, tourists (weather, tax and gambling), students, refugees, labourers, modern slaves, military and birds, as well as resident fauna. Nor does it take into account that certain segments of the resident population are conceived of as settlers and others as locals.

The autochthonous population are considered Cypriots, whose first language is either Greek or Turkish. Sovereignty of the island is internationally presented as an unbalanced binary between the legitimate political establishment of the RoC (Republic of Cyprus, in the southern region) and its ‘out of place’ counter-part, the illegitimate political establishment of the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). Other administrative regions include the British Protected Areas (BPAs), the UN buffer zone and Turkish military bases (See Figure 1). Enclaves, POPS (privately owned public space) and gated communities are also divergent regions.

This paper focuses on Kuzey Kıbrıs, or Northern Cyprus as the TRNC is colloquially known. It is considered by international political consensus (excepting Turkey) as being illegally occupied despite legal precedent (Hakki 2007: 187). In 1974 the Turkish military landed in Cyprus, on the premise of helping Turkish Cypriots and their militia resist unification of Cyprus with Greece. They proceeded to take command of the northern third of the island (ibid 539) where most Turkish Cypriots had already been displaced into ethnic enclaves. With this military invasion most Greek Cypriots then migrated to the southern region that remained under the sovereignty of the RoC, whilst Turkish Cypriots remaining in the southern region migrated to the north. Consequently the RoC persisted in the south whilst the north was occupied by the Turkish military (See Figure 1).

In this northern region Turkish Cypriots were internationally recognised as the internally displaced TCC (Turkish Cypriot Community) and were stuck in this political limbo for almost a decade. In lieu of this, in 1983 the state of the TRNC was declared by the leaders of the TCC (See Figure 1). However, this state has remained unrecognised by the hegemony of international political consensus. This history followed on from a complex set of events that:

‘…emerged through Cypriots’ encounters with modernity under British colonialism, and through a consequent re-imagining of the body politic in a new world in which Cypriots were defined as part of a European periphery… and how Muslims and Christians in Cyprus were transformed into Turks and Greeks.’ (Bryant 2004: 2)

Bryant demonstrates how people were transformed through the administrative medium of British rule in Cyprus and the related ‘troubles’ that emerged with that (2004). This medium involved the seemingly mundane tools of conducting census, categorizing people and organising them spatially as a population. Whilst these might seem benign technocratic activities Bryant demonstrates otherwise.

Based on 17 months of anthropological fieldwork in Northern Cyprus, this paper complements Bryant’s work. It does so by introducing how human-animal relations have been and are being transformed through the medium of spatialized environmental administration employed by British officers and now by hunters. I examine this medium in the form of the hunting space, how it emerges, how it is made sense of and consequently the need to clean it. I argue that the principle relation defining this medium is that of paternalistic care. It fails to deliver on its promises, but maintains the legitimacy of those with authority over the hunting space. I conclude with a proposition for epistemological non-dualism.

Figure 1: Timeline of Administrations of Cyprus


The Reproduction of Colonial Space through Hunting

When Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley and colonial officers of the British Empire disembarked at the port of Limassol in 1878, Cyprus came under their ‘protection’ (Hook 2015). It had been part of the Ottoman Empire for over three centuries. Upon their arrival and throughout their stay, officers of the Empire pushed the narrative that the Cypriot environment was highly degraded. Therefore, a justification for colonial rule and its policies regarding the land and its ownership was the ‘saving’ of the environment from its local inhabitants. This formed the ‘ruined landscape narrative’, a defining feature of British rule in the Mediterranean and further afield.

Colonial officers employed the idea that Cypriots and their previous Ottoman rulers had neglected environmental management (Harris 2012: 3763-64). The ruined landscape narrative denotes the Ottomans as ‘bad rulers’ and Cypriots as ‘lazy ignorant natives’. When examples of Cypriots arose that did not resemble this, such as perceived resistance, they were conversely described as active destroyers of the environment (Harris 2007). Consequently:

‘Forward-thinking British foresters taught the residents to adopt what they viewed to be worthwhile, productive… lifestyles… They also taught the people to respect and appreciate nature.’ (2012: 3670-75)

Although native habitats were perceived as ‘degraded’ and ‘ruined’, historical-ecologist Rackham demonstrates otherwise. What are considered ‘wild’ and ‘natural’ habitats on Mediterranean islands are actually a result of an extensive relationship between humans, animals and their environment. They are far from ruined, at least when the British Empire arrived (Rackham and Moody 1996; Grove and Rackham 2003). A pertinent example in Cyprus was the demonization of goats and goat-herding by British colonial scientists. Rackham points out to the contrary, that the unique grazing styles of certain breeds of goat are involved in the unique flora of Mediterranean islands (2003: 239-269).

Despite Cypriots being portrayed as environmentally ruinous when not too lazy to engage with it, British officers could not simply out-right ban the killing of local fauna and flora. Firstly, they wished to hunt and shoot game animals themselves, where ‘hunt’ and ‘game’ are terms that refer to specific traditions entwined with Empire. Secondly, Cypriot inhabitants, unlike English peasants, had not yet gotten used to being legally dis-embedded from using local fauna and flora.[i] Nonetheless, British colonial policy would over the coming decades attempt to turn the native population into peasants, with disastrous and famine inducing consequences (Harris 2007: 281; Kadıoğlu 2010: 105).

In the meantime the British colonial officer’s job was to start civilizing and remaking Cypriot locals in their image, as well as the natural environment.[ii] This was not an instantaneous or uncontested event amongst colonialists as well as local elites (Harris 2007: 113-174). It was a complex process dominated by different British officers making sense from their perspectives. Making sense of where they were, what was rightfully theirs and how they should go about rebuilding their English idyll in Cyprus in relation to who they were. Administration emerged out of this as a process of senior officers, such as the Governor, hunting all year round. At the same time instructing and delegating their subordinates to shape the Cypriot ‘countryside’ around their ideal of proper, pristine, peaceful and free of unfamiliar local people (Varnava 2005). This process was itself embedded in the sitting British government needing to demonstrate, in the face of political criticism in England, the idyllic nature of Cyprus and its worthiness of British colonial attention. Particularly after it was perceived by autochthones political opposition, that the British PM had shouldered the burden of saving the Ottoman Empire from collapse. As one commentator put it, ‘The Ideal and the Real…Cyprus, white as driven snow’ Or ‘Cyprus, black as any crow’ (Taylor 1879).

Out of this, hunting as a hobby for the Cypriot colonial subject was encouraged, instead of foraging for fauna and flora. Attempting to do this required converting ‘foraging with a gun’ and other tools, Cypriots and the Cypriot landscape into a people and a space for ‘proper’ hunting. This does not mean hunting as an elite leisure activity was introduced by the British. Instead, what was introduced was hunting integrated into the British colonial administrative apparatus, replete with the colonial-class relationship of civilizer civilizing uncivilized humans and nonhumans. A key part of this was pushing ‘uncivilized’ people off of their land, [iii] whilst creating a ‘civilized’ urban scribal class seeking weekend leisure pursuits akin to their superiors. This was a classic British colonial tactic for converting abundant commons into accumulated private property. This done through presenting it as growth and productivity (Hickel 2019: 61) and then selling it as the ethical fulfilment of the ‘white man’s burden’.

In this vein big game species such as Moufflon (Muflon / Ovis orientalis orientalis) were only available to hunt with the special permission of the Governor. In short, off limits to most Cypriots but not to British colonial officers. Smaller game animals, such as hare and partridge were accessible for Cypriot access, but enclosed via the necessary paperwork and monies needing to be paid to hunt them. Criminalisation of the trapping of migratory birds would come later as part of the turn to modernity and the further administrative institutionalisation of hunting as leisure pursuit.

During British rule, a range of animals that were neither game, appropriately wild or in domestic service were perceived to impinge and were promoted to be killed as pests. This was a role for gamekeepers back in Britain, now given to local Cypriots. Originally this included a whole host of fauna however, in the case of my fieldwork in 21st century Northern Cyprus this has been narrowed down to a focus on corvids. These were Hooded Crows (Garga / Corvux cornix) and Eurasian Magpies (Saksağan / Pica pica) as well as other corvid by-catch. In sum, a critical part of the medium of civilizing was the administration of nature. A consequence of this was the controlling of harmful and predatory species, so that game species might thrive under the Empire’s protection.


The Reproduction of Contemporary Hunting Space

In 1960 the Republic of Cyprus achieved independence from the British Empire. Alongside the relevant government and non-government organisations that emerged with this shift, leisure activities such as hunting and shooting also received their own associations and organisations. Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities formed their own ethnic equivalent of these. Established in 1971 as part of this transformation, the TRNC Hunting Federation (KKTC Avcılık Federasyonu)[iv] claimed responsibility and authority for representing the interests of Turkish Cypriot hunters. It was founded by a Turkish Cypriot trained in the administrative distribution of electricity as a public service, who applied this knowledge to hunting accordingly. In 2011 the Central Hunting Commission (Merkez Av Komisyonu) was formed to oversee hunting, a hybrid organisation between the TRNC state Interior Ministry and the TRNC Hunting Federation, further integrating the two organisations into each other. During my fieldwork the Under-Secretary to the Interior that lead this government committee had previously been a President of the TRNC Hunting Federation, reflecting this integration,

When I first asked staff and elected representatives of the TRNC Hunting Federation how hunting works and what they as an organisation do, I was handed two items and told that everything I needed to know was in them. The first was a couple of sheets of A4 paper stapled together and titled ‘Regulatory and Must-do Activities’. It was not an annual calendar, but a to-do-list. Second was a pocket-sized blue book, inside which were all the laws and their sub-sections relating to hunting. Hunters in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Islands are often dismissed as ‘hirsute men’ (Falzon 2008: 20) reflecting an idea that hunters have no sense of following ‘law and order’. However, despite my initial dismissal of these documents I quickly realized the importance of taking what my research participants had said seriously (Graeber 2015: 27-28). I paid close attention to these artefacts of drab paperwork and their critical role in the reproduction of law and order in hunting. In doing so, I observed that the activities of the TRNC Hunting Federation were inescapably filtered through the pages of these documents. One explicit manifestation of this process was the reproduction of seasonal hunting space and the projection of it onto Northern Cyprus with hunting maps.

Hunting maps were a geographical representation of the hunting space for each season (See Figure 2). Until the early 2000’s they had taken the form of annual legal amendments textually listing closed areas. With the introduction of cheap and easy visual mapping, these lists were transformed. Many small areas of closure could be communicated on one page as a single graspable representation, a map. This allowed staff, representatives and members of the TRNC Hunting Federation, as well as hunters in general, to relate to hunting as cartographic territory. One that could be manoeuvred around and managed in the face of an increasingly busy and enclosed country with multiple different intersecting administrations.

I witnessed three separate years of these maps being produced. The activities around their production occupied an extensive amount of proactive and exuberant attention from people involved in the Hunting Federation. Drawn up for each hunting season, they broke Northern Cyprus into 56 zones, each of which were coloured differently as to whether they were permanently off limits, or open or closed to hunting for that season (See Figure 2).

Figure 2: A hunting map. Reproduced with permission of TRNC Hunting Federation 2014.

While Northern Cyprus is not large, the actual physical representations of these maps printed out on A3 paper at a scale of 1: 300,000 left hunters very hazy about exactly where the borders were, or why certain areas had been picked over others to be open or closed as they radically changed each season. I also witnessed that birds-eye-view maps were not familiar or comfortable tools of navigation for a portion of my research participants. Despite the haziness of the maps, hunters used them to talk about how this little hill or scrap of land might be included or excluded. In combination with new highways and globally imported off-road vehicles, hunters used the maps to roughly indicate and later show me the ‘nooks and crannies’ of the land. Along with this came oral epitaphs based on people having spent years discussing and practising hunting.

These maps were a focus around which to converse and telephone other hunters or Hunting Federation staff, and talk about whether this bit of land was legal this season or not. This in itself shaped further activities on the to-do-list of the Hunting Federation. For example, during my fieldwork staff expended a considerable amount of time and resources placing ‘No Hunting’ sign-posts around access points to slivers of closed areas. In some cases, they made the bureaucratic red lines material in the form of flimsy red and white tape. Flapping and tearing in the wind, hung along certain junctures and strung around certain areas, sometimes hundreds of metres in length.

As shared visual representations, maps were pinned up in hunting clubs and cafes across the country, across the walls and screens of digital and analogue communications. Along with the ‘No Hunting’ signs they reminded me of the twin national flags found hanging in or atop every building. With every hunting season, the national newspapers regularly printed these maps as full spreads. Impossible to use for navigation they were a publicly embossed demonstration of the legitimacy of the Hunting Federation over the hunting space and its constituents. They also echoed the ornate globes that decorate powerful rooms.

These maps were not unilateral performances of power though. Just as trophy hunters mount heads and antlers on their walls not simply as substitutive symbols for something else (Marvin in Kowalsky, 2010: 105-116), so these maps were on-going interactive representations around which hunting discourse, and by extension space, came alive. The very reproduction of the medium of administration was not simply a conduit for a message. The actual fact of reproducing the medium, and all the labour and conversation involved, was the actual production of the matter of the hunting space.

This combination of relations involved in hunting maps was only one dimension of the spatialized reproduction of Northern Cyprus as hunting space. Other activities included: The annual breeding and releasing of partridge which, in theory, would increase the number of hunting encounters; The placing of water barrels across the landscape, from which animals could, in theory, drink where springs had dried up during the hot summer months; The placing of bird boxes to serve, in theory, birds nesting that prey on caterpillars that prey on hunting habitat; The holding of hunting and hunter festivals, tournaments, and feasts to socialise the hunting space and, in theory, build a freely associating community; The printing of hunting magazines, documentary series, TV appearances, social media outputs and regular newspaper spreads to, in theory, exchange ideas and inform the community.

Like the maps being ‘in theory’ a practical navigational guide to the hunting space, all these activities were ‘in practice’ socially and materially productive of the matter of the hunting space. Furthermore, this productivity, just like the reproduction of land as hunting space through maps, was entrenched within a regular cycle of filtering it through the administrative sieve of the little blue book. A process that defined human-environmental relations as protection under administrative authority.


Culling, Cleaning and Wasting

The contents of the little blue book emerged directly from a law passed under British rule.[v] A law on which all the following amendments, adaptations and translations that have been passed into TRNC law were built. This law defines hunting as part of ‘protecting’ game and wildlife. The protective activities that feed forward from this law and its amendments were conceived of as activities of protective care. This protection being achieved through cleaning away what was perceived to impinge upon the hunting space. In this way, faunal constituents of the hunting space came and continue to come under the protective care of this law. This is defined not simply as a benefit for hunters but for the benefit of these constituents and the land.

One of the primary forms this manifest today as is the spring ‘cleaning’ of the plains, mountains and forests; a beginning and an end to the seasonal projection of the hunting space. During this time a selected handful of hunter’s turn into labourers. They do the dirty work, as it was described to me, of struggling with animals that are designated as harmful to game animals. The primary targets of this are corvids. In a typical year, at minimum 15,000 corvids are cleaned though being killed with shotguns, their ‘cunning’ heads collected and exchanged for a state subsidy (See Figure 3).

Figure 3: Head of a Hooded Crow. Photo: Author 2015.

Corvids were described to me with two sets of words during this cleaning. One set being about cunning and cleverness, when they were described directly to me. The other being crude expletives shouted at the birds, including ‘bastard’ and ‘son-of-a-whore’, especially when they got away. By contrast game birds, such as Chukar partridge (Gekliğ / Alectoris chukar), were referred to in protective and caring ways.[vi]

When I delved deeper, asking what we were doing during this spring event, and why we were doing it, I was systematically told that we were ‘cleaning’ the land. While this explanation does direct attention toward the official story of corvid shooting as quantitative population control, it also reflects how my participants made sense of what they were doing. I witnessed hunters asserting themselves on the landscape, akin to smashing an insurgency, whilst claiming themselves as the land’s true protectors. This echoes Dalla Bernadina’s observations on hunting in Corsica. He notes that such protective narratives are entangled with an apocalyptic narrative involving fighting in a war-like fashion (2009). This fight literally done by demonstrating that those who had the audacity to kill their game, as well as not follow proper etiquette, would be cleansed from the land. This audacity of corvids was the hunters’ belief that corvids kill hatchlings and leverets, as well as peck out the eyes of adult game animals, thus negatively detracting from the hunting space.

This is compounded by corvids’ social etiquette. They are a common sight and are seen to adapt with the political, economic and environmental conditions of Northern Cyprus. As was noted to me, ‘every year there are more’, whilst in the corvid culling manual it notes, ‘…corvids have spread across the globe, even as far as Japan.’ Corvids’ intelligence and social gregariousness are interpreted as avarice, alongside them fluidly moving between urban and rural spaces.

Corvids were not simply illegal human hunters to be sanctioned though, but ‘very clever animals’. They were described to me not as physically, biologically or epidemiologically dirty, but as using dirty tactics by targeting helpless young animals. To hunters they had a dirty social nature. Hence, one could kill them. One could kill as many of them as possible, and one could have a particular kind of satisfaction in cleaning out this competitor with its dirty behaviour. Thus, the process of this annual cleansing of the land was inherently a more ‘blood-thirsty’ and boisterous affair, with a very different style from ‘real hunting’, as my participants differentiated it.

Defining the killing of certain animals in lieu of protecting other animals is a common practice throughout Europe and further afield, often called culling. From badgers to boar, to numerous varieties of bird, plant and aquatic life, a similar justification for indiscriminate culling is often present: They cause harm, do not belong and therefore should be removed. However, the justifications for these culls often do not stand up to scrutiny, whether technically, ecologically or otherwise. In the case of corvids in Northern Cyprus the given reason for culling them is that they are harmful to game species. However, a global comparative study (Madden et al. 2015) and a local Cypriot study (Hadjisterkotis 2003) demonstrate that corvids do an almost imperceptible amount of preying on game animals that is negligible in terms of effecting the population size of targeted species.

Furthermore, depending on the situation, reducing the numbers of population does not technically lead to a decrease in a population, as animals are not collectives of identical individuals quantitatively constituting a population. Instead, they have fully formed diverse and complex lifeworlds. For example, a cull of feral cats in Tasmania led to an increase in their overall population size, as they did not copulate as numbers, but according to their particular social hierarchies. The culling method inadvertently targeted cats that were suppressing reproduction through certain properties of the culling’s spatialization. Copulation between cats increased manifold outside of the social checks and balances on reproduction these removed cats provided, leading to an overall population increase (Lazenby et al. 2014). I am in the process of conducting a collaborative study in line with this on corvids shot in Northern Cyprus, where the preliminary results suggest a technically inefficient cull.

I argue that it is inappropriate to describe a practice simply as culling when it does not evaluate its technical efficiency, the social and biological life of the animals involved, the wider ecological context and the political, economic and other human social factors that have enabled the situation. Many of my participants in Northern Cyprus were honest about this in person and did not consider shooting crows hunting nor necessarily feel comfortable with doing it. The small group of hunters who did do it had other personal reasons for being involved including the duty to clean, social integration into the administration and access to subsidies. In spite of this their organisation outwardly produced a narrative that described it as quantitative population control and protective care.

It is imperative when engaging in culling to understand the socio-ecological systems that setup certain animals as needing to be culled and certain animals as needing protective care. Otherwise mystified habits of thinking emerge, such as that surrounding another intersection between conservation, development and hunting: the case of ‘wild’ boar in Europe. Vets and other scientists are currently discussing at length how to most ethically kill wild boar en-masse and co-opt hunters into doing so for them. The reason given being that, on the one hand too many of them ruin lawns, crops, and urban safety, and on the other hand they spread disease to farmed pigs (EC 2018; ISWBOS 2018). Except no one talks about the susceptibility to disease that hyper-industrially pig framing creates in the first place, and what political medium or market rationale enables that. It is frankly absurd that half the people are talking about ways to kill boar and the other half are talking about stopping a disease that is killing boar. This suggests a paradoxical ‘habit of thoughts’ (Bateson 1987: 127-204). Bateson notes that schizophrenic thinking can be ameliorated by changing the over-arching rationale and medium of thinking; the ecology of the mind (ibid). This could involve considering boar as abundance not as a wasted population to join ‘the Disappeared’ (Clarke and Haraway 2018: 69).

For the purposes of this paper I propose the use of ‘waste’ based on an existing colloquialism, rather than opaquely talking of culling. This is to specify practices that do not attempt to understand the technical, social and ecological dimensions of what they are engaging in. The colloquialism ‘to waste’ means to kill or seriously injure as a method of demonstrating ‘social’ control over a space. Through the lens of shooting corvids in Northern Cyprus, this is as an assertion of hunters’ legitimacy over the lives of the hunting space and an assertion of their administrative order. In asserting so, denying the other animals’ way of organization through disrupting emic stewarding practices.


Ethical Productivity as Signalling

A critical premise of hunting and related wildlife conservation authorities, is defining their activities as protective care. The provision of this care is seen to be part of a transactional exchange, by contrast to other forms of relation, reciprocal or otherwise. The ‘right to hunt’ or entitlement to an environmental resource is established in exchange for caring for and protecting a portion of land, species or resource. This relationship amongst European hunting organisations and their regional territories has been dubbed the ‘harvest’ approach to hunting, by comparison to the ‘gathering’ approach found on Mediterranean islands with migratory birds (Falzon, 2008; Hell, 1996; von Essen et al., 2019). In other words, if you can demonstrate that you are caring for a resource, through its enclosure and administration, you have the right to consume it as part of a harvest approach.

The transactional habit of thought in this ‘harvest’ approach extends with hunting through and beyond Europe via international organisations of environmental administration. A Turkish Cypriot participant and previous Hunting Federation leader had hunted in Kazakhstan. He was told that he had been informed that he was participating in ecotourism. In this instance ‘trophy hunting’ was framed as ‘ethical consumption’ at the intersection between ecotourism, wildlife conservation and development. Standard signals of ‘care’ in trophy hunting include the idea that the species hunted will become extinct if they are not funded by those with the wealth to hunt them or that the trophy hunter’s leftover meat from their kill feeds local people. This signalling of care in hunting is not new but is intimately wrapped up with the idea of wildlife ‘conservation’. It is a popular narrative put forth by environmental scientists as a way to ‘conserve’ a habitat by allowing hunters to pay to hunt some of the species (Veríssimo and Rust 2015). As Macdonald points out, through an example of trophy hunting in Pakistan,

‘What is happening… is the implementation of an ideology of nature that relies rhetorically on a discourse of global ecology, and of local people as incapable environmental managers, to legitimate an allegedly scientifically and ethically superior force able to respond to that assumed degradation.’ (2004: 102)

This ethical consumption and the care it implies are not limited to hunting. It is a global industry and a key sales package for non-governmental organisations working in environmental and humanitarian sectors. Organisations present signals both to funders and consumers and by extension a funder and consumer’s audience, that their hunting, tourism, or consumption is in fact an ethical act. Carrier presents the example of a ‘conservation and development’ project in Papua New Guinea (Carrier, 2008). This project, ‘assumed, that if people developed a business that generated money from environmental resources without harming them, then they would support conservation’ (ibid 43). In lieu of this an eco-tourist lodge was planned.

The clans living in the area spent two years coming to a consensus on the site for this eco-tourist lodge. A site was chosen that maintained the political parity of the clans. Carrier notes, ‘This decision reflected the social politics and cultural logic of these… villagers, just the sort of thing that eco-tourists intend to respect and protect’ (ibid 43). However, the expatriate director of the project turned up at the end of the consensus process, took a stroll for an hour and came to ‘their’ decision to place the lodge by an airstrip instead. According to their ‘market rationality’ the place chosen by local consensus had a view that was not quite as nice as the one by the airstrip, as well as being a thirty-minute walk away from it. Therefore, the lodge was to be built beside the airstrip, a location that reinforced an already powerful clan.

Carrier goes on to unravel more unsettling dimensions, as well as exploring Fair Trade coffee, eco-diving trips, amongst other examples. The comparative outcome that Carrier observes is that through ‘ethical consumption’ market relations of a particular form are extended deeper into the habitats and lives of people around the world. These relations integrate these habitats and people into a specific form of market. In other words, it is these market relations that are being reproduced in these eco-tourist locations rather than ethical relations. This is in contrast to a normative understanding of market relations acting as a conduit through which ‘ethical’ relations can take place. As Carrier notes, ‘the medium is the message’ (ibid 40).

Returning to Cyprus, human-partridge relations are a good example of this. In the face of hunters reporting dwindling encounters with huntable animals in Northern Cyprus, the primary answer of the Hunting Federation has been to breed and release up to 30,000 Chukar partridge every year (See Figure 4). This in relation to around 13,000 licensed hunters per year. In this case birds are seen to decrease so the ‘set’ answer is to literally convert resources and labour into more birds to encounter in hunting. However, while the biology of the birds is to some extent reproduced within the hunting space, the social worlds of birds that emerge fall outside of the hunting space. The bred birds are socially ‘chickens. This does not make for hunting encounters, from a ‘native’ perspective, but domesticated ones as hunters noted.

Figure 4: Loading partridge from pens into crates for transport. Photo: Author 2015.

Nonetheless the officials of the Hunting Federation as well as leaders of the hunting clubs, who purchase these birds from the Hunting Federation headquarters, provide a strong signal. This is a signal to their members, themselves and those who question them, that they are doing ‘a lot’, because they are expending a lot of resources and reproducing a lot of birds that signal being ‘wildlife’. This is part of the prime argument I continually heard given by officials of the Hunting Federation when challenged, as to why their organisation should exist and why hunters should be entrusted with the fauna of Northern Cyprus. It was often presented as juxtaposed against anti-hunting voices: ‘Greenies… what do they do!? Look how much we do!’ Hence, it is the actual accumulation and capture of social and material matter as administrative medium that is productive of the hunting space. Therein this productivity is the signal of a contribution to a transactional relationship of care and the entitlement of hunters to environmental abundance and the Hunting Federation’s legitimate authority to administer it.


Paternalistic Care

Carriers’ argument has been a valuable way to frame this article (2008). It supports the idea of commodity production as the general mode of social reproduction. Key human-animal relations mentioned in this article do involve such reproduction. Explicit market rationales do exist. Habits of thinking related to this include treating corvids or partridges as if they are identical individual units that can be traded by economic actors into or out of the hunting space, via the bred addition or cleaned subtraction of animal units. Hunting space can also be conceptualised as and is in some sense a commodity, albeit one traded in a market not limited to monetary transactions but involving the horse-trading of political and ethical signals.

Figure 5: Snapshots of a TRNC Hunting Federation meeting. Photos: Author 2015.

Nonetheless, the key intersection of these elements in Northern Cyprus is the democratic rationale of the meetings that elected representatives from across the island attend (See Figure 5). The extension of hunting rights to the common man has been a cornerstone of ‘democratic’ revolutions over the last quarter of the millennium. Or as Ortega y Gasset poetically put it, ‘In all revolutions, the first thing that the “people” have done was to jump over the fences of preserves or to tear them down, and in the name of social justice pursue the hare and the partridge’ (2007: 40). A similar transformation in legal rights emerged with multiple ‘revolutions’ across Europe (Knoll, 2004), though in particular ways and at particular paces. In Germany in 1848 (ibid 16), in Portugal in 1974 (Proper in Ortega y Gasset 2007: 23) and more recently in the US (Herman, 2005). In summary, a common aspect across all these regions during this transition is that at some point or another, in varying forms, a new hunting medium was produced. This was what Herman calls ‘hunting democracy’, as he explains:

‘…every white male… possessed in theory, political and legal rights that only kings and aristocrats had enjoyed in earlier centuries. Among them was the right to hunt…. a tradition of hunting as a democratic sport.’ (ibid 22)

With the independence, troubles and division of Cyprus this transition was institutionalised amongst Turkish Cypriots, through drawing on the administrative education of prior decades under British colonialism along with the associated trade union movement and local communist organisations (Adams, 1971). Hence, rather than the imposed market-rationality of an expatriate individual, the decision-making and consequent to-do-list are, in theory, subject to the democratic rationales of these meetings. Constant across these meetings and generations of leaders, even across historical changes in sovereignty has been the contents of this little blue book. Hence, production and adaptation of the hunting space takes place within the leeway offered by the medium of hunting administration, embedded within the leeway of the TRNC state, embedded in the medium of the postcolonial nation-state, embedded in a history of democratic revolution against imperialism, embedded in the continuity of statehood. It was no longer the paternal sovereign and empire, but the paternal citizenry.

Unpacking this administrative medium reveals it to be a collection of signals productive of the hunting space. These are signals that demonstrate care and productivity, where productivity is the production of an infrastructure of on-going authority and wasted animals. These are signal of ethical administration. Therefore, the relationship that defines the topics raised in this paper is not simply a market rationale but the rationale of paternalistic care. Paternalistic care is the signalling that one is ethically relating to the other as incapable of looking after itself, thus it requires one to take control of it and protect it from itself and from others who harm it. Where it is ‘saved’ according to what one deems best for it, which is what one perceives to be its ideal form. Critically, according to the ethics of transactional relations, in return for this care one must not only ‘take the burden’ of administering it but one is also entitled to it. This is a non-contentious observation of this paper. This is how the leaders of my participants defined themselves.[vii]

This raises the question of where this relation fundamentally comes from, as it is not a unique gift to the world of British colonialism, and secondly how to address it. However, before addressing this in the concluding section another critical question must first be addressed: Do mediums of social reproduction defined by paternalistic care produce the life its users aspire to? Do they meet their promises?

Placing this question within the specific context of the administration of the hunting space in Northern Cyprus and the practice of cleaning dirty behaviour, it can be rephrased as: Is the wasting of corvids worth it? Those that use the provision of the public service of hunting, administered by the Hunting Federation as a surrogate for the TRNC state, that is hunters as users, are by their own admission not experiencing good hunting encounters. In one of their voices, ‘…every year there are less animals to hunt, even though they release them… every year there are so many crows even when we shoot them…’

My participants had various personal and collective motivations as to why they hunted.[viii] It is not that they were personally driven to hunt and waste animals according to a rationale of paternalistic care. Hunting is in some sense an escape form such a relation. However, a modern medium for collectivisation was in place, in progress, aspired too. Hence, hunters wanted to go hunting, but as users they found themselves in a paradox wanting to be modern through demonstrating its legitimising administrative medium and signalling care towards protecting their hunting space, but it failing to deliver on its promises.

Therefore, the question is to whom does it harm not to waste corvids? As this paper has outlined, this is not so much about the message, but the administrative medium of modern statehood. Therefore the answer is that stopping the wasting of animals removes a key plank of the legitimacy and the social reproduction of the authority of the TRNC Hunting Federation as an arm of TRNC statehood, and therefore harms statehood and the administrative medium hunters have tied their hunting rights too and by extension their freedom as citizen.

In the face of the inevitable internal frustration and criticism of hunting members with regards to this situation, the collective answer is defined by the administrative medium in place. This is done through its parameters of social reproduction, in its meetings defined by its laws and administrative procedures. Therefore, the answer is that people in the position of authority are, ‘interested in solutions that will enable [them] to carry on like before’ (Thunberg 2019). This is done through further accumulation and appropriation of public, citizen, member and natural resources to try and continue generating a productive hunting space. Both the President of the Hunting Federation during my fieldwork and the one since have focused their efforts on precisely this. In the former’s case this was through negotiating the inclusion of military bases territory in the hunting space as new hunting frontiers. In the latter’s case, through opening up the hunting of migratory thrush in other seasons. This natural abundance is still comparatively plentiful and comes without transactional obligations (Falzon 2008). In other words, the administrative medium is not inherently productive of abundance so appropriation, accumulation and exploration are employed (or hunting is outsourced abroad), whilst signals of care are drawn attention to. A key signal of this care was giving corvids the literal flak, for the shortcomings of the administrative medium, through wasting them.

In sum, the first critical point about paternalistic care is that it cannot deliver on its own promised ideals. The second critical point is, it is not simply that it results in breakdowns as it is unable to act on moments of crisis that emerge in any complex system, but that breakdown is built in. It is as a way to manage through the binary of the good ‘wild’ game animal and the good ‘passive’ domestic animal. Animals that do not fit this binary are seen as out of order and identified as the source of breakdown. The implication is that, if only those that do not fit the binary did not exist or changed their dirty behaviour then paternalistic care would work. That is why they need to be cleaned.


Conclusion: Life Lives on Life

Sitting with different leaders of the Hunting Federation, committee members, heads of hunting clubs and active members there was something patently clear in their answers, demeanours and formal lack of material gain from it. This was that their administrative medium and its inherent paternalistic care, is what has enabled them to be one of the largest organizations by membership in the country, outside of the TRNC citizenry, and to ensure their right to fauna as entitlements. It ensures some stability of sovereignty and legitimacy of their hunting space and their personal leisure time to be free men, whilst embedded in the definition of a political ‘state of precarity’; the TRNC. The administrative medium of statehood works, on the face of it, and that in itself is enough for many. Enough to withhold people who hunt from accepting the ‘paralysis of the forces of order’ in the face of crisis (Graeber 2019).

Just as colonial officers were not homogenous and the results of that period emerged out of contestation so people who hunt today in Northern Cyprus are not homogenous. Throughout my fieldwork I encountered groups of people who hunted who dismissed the TRNC Hunting Federation. They noted that it did not represent them, despite its establishment as the authoritative and representative voice of hunting. The most lucid portrayal of this was articulated by a research participant during a particular afternoon: I had arrived with the President and staff of the Hunting Federation at a mass hunting barbecue often mainly men and their sons, but on this occasion women too. A clay pigeon machine had been setup through-out the day for people to enjoy having a go at using. When we arrived a selection of people were identified as winners’ of this clay pigeon ‘tournament’ and given medals and trophies. My participant, a local to the area, calmly observed, ‘…what do they actually do for us… they come here and give people this ‘stuff’, but what about their promises… every year less birds… where are our partridges…’

I accompanied the Hunting Federation President and staff with these cheap plastic trophies across the country on many such weekends. We would land in the middle of mass communal barbecues, once a commemoration for a person killed in a hunting accident. We would rely on a local contact and the handful or hunters who personally affiliated with the Hunting Federation. People were visibly gracious at receiving visitors from afar, but we were also taking explicit advantage of everyone else’s openness. With flags and medals we would give people these shiny stamps of authority.

Talking to different contesting voices it was clear that many members were open to new thinking on hunting, as well as having straight forward suggestions themselves. A key one being a multi-year moratorium on all hunting dedicated to regenerating habitat. However, no one has yet been willing to raise it as a leader in a representative democracy built through a medium that demanded annual reproduction through its to-do-list.

There was much appetite from people who hunted, for a thriving environment as well as the associated relations of community, fraternity and solidarity mapped onto this. But, the irony is the medium to do this has been inherited from that used to undermine Cypriot-environmental relations: British colonial administration.  It is not that paternalistic care was its unique contribution, nor its only source in Cyprus. What it did do was spread through ‘Western’ colonialism a medium for social reproduction. It contributed to a particular ecology of the land and of the mind, rendered through its peculiar habits of thought and making.

‘Western thought’ privileges a hylomorphic model of making, as reflected in the human-corvid and human-partridge relations noted here. This is the increasingly dualist idea that to make anything is a question of forcefully imposing form on matter: ‘Form came to be seen as imposed by an agent with a particular design in mind, while matter, thus rendered passive and inert, became that which was imposed upon’ (Ingold 2010: 92). The environment is implicitly seen as a frontier to be scientifically assimilated. Then with the consequent technical force, be further conquered, shaped and protected, whether as hunting space or the romantic idylls of British colonial officers. It is dichotomised between private and public property, science and art, biological fuel and cultural leisure, wild and domesticated. These are all binary arguments, ideals that rely on sitting in opposition to the other. They cannot make sense of the non-binary plurality of relations, but try to hylomorphically model them.

Instead of this hard dualist dominion of form over matter Ingold draws attention to the skilful practices of making. He observed that it is not,

‘…a question… of imposing preconceived forms on inert matter but of intervening in the fields of force and currents of material wherein forms are generated. Practitioners, I contend, are wanderers, wayfarers, whose skill lies in their ability to find the grain of the world’s becoming and to follow its course while bending it to their evolving purpose.’ (ibid)

These ‘skilful’ relationships between community and commons are still reflected in Cypriot knowledge of foraging fauna, flora, fruits and fungi, as well as a whole host of culinary, cultivating, commoning crafts. Hunters proudly expressed this knowledge when they had it, as it enabled them to intuit a hare or asparagus and so to know their land. However, when embedded in a hylomorphic model for collective action, such as the environmental administration described here, it presides over decreasing abundance. At the same time it makes claims to facilitating the rewilding of an environment, as the TRNC Hunting Federation does through breeding and releasing partridge. But this approach is defined by relations of paternalistic care built on wasting animal lives. In some cases the simple absurdity of talking about practices without even appreciating the context of their medium, legal or otherwise (Treves et al. 2019).

Human-environmental relations reflect the human-human relations they are entangled with. As environmental histories of Mediterranean Islands demonstrate (Grove and Rackham, 2003; Rackham and Moody, 1996), the ‘wild’ land of Mediterranean islands was made with humans. Lush environments come with lush communities, not separate from them nor in spite of the political mediums there environmental messages are realized through. Where lush communities recognise they are multispecies collectives, where animals are not wasted because they do not fit the protected binary. Building on Cypriot local knowledge of ‘natures blessings’ (doğadan bereketi), fauna engaged with as a diversity of social worlds, but set within the context of common interdependence. Not included or excluded but colonial relations with them healed. This is ‘community’ based in the origin of the word civilized – civilis – meaning, ‘those qualities of political wisdom and mutual aid that permit societies to organise themselves through voluntary coalition’ (Wengrow 2018). Where, in the context of this article, a coalition extends to explicitly including our interdependence on our multispecies collectives. Turning to the opening quote, a society built on life, not the wasted sacrifice of it for a ‘Western’ modernist ideal always out of reach (ibid). A Cypriot turn to the non-dualist ‘East’ and its epistemology: ‘life lives on life’ (D’Souza 2017).

As many people in Northern Cyprus concede, life is not found in new monumental buildings despite their consumer appeal, but in growing sweet oranges amongst gardens bursting with diversity and life, and then, importantly, bringing those oranges to their friends and family, their community, making a multispecies community on a regular basis.

Sitting around a fire, sharing foraged mushrooms and thrush, discussing the quality of your tomatoes with old friends, this is what my hunting participants knew. But, their representative democracy and its administrative medium fail them. In the broader context of Northern Cyprus, statehood has largely failed Turkish Cypriots, whilst the solidarity of egalitarian community has kept them alive in isolation, albeit one partly appropriated by Turkish nationalism (Bryant and Hatay, 2011). If coalitions cannot be built with states, then strengthening living environmental relations through community rather than administration is key, including considering developing regional coalitions with other community-based mediums with collective ecology as their message.

Figure 6: They Left. A worker contemplating a rubber duck by Geliy Korzhev. (A visual metaphor for this article from @davidgraeber)



I acknowledge all my participants in Northern Cyprus for their warmth and patience with me. I acknowledge the staff of the TRNC Hunting Federation who included me in their busy work. I acknowledge the fauna, flora, fungi, fish and fruits of Cyprus that have nourished me as I grew up and during the fieldwork for this research. I acknowledge the crows that have guided me and the wondrous beauty of all the birds that live and visit Cyprus every year. I acknowledge the rich political and historical ecologies in the region that have enlivened me. I acknowledge my #huntingstudies peers for our conversations. I acknowledge my mother for empowering me to heal my personal body whilst I wrote this paper.

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.

Ethics and consent

The fieldwork conducted for this paper was approved by the ethics committee at the School of Anthropology and Conservation and the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.


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[i] During the first part of British colonial rule, Cyprus was not legally under British sovereignty, but merely on loan from the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, passing extensive new laws was not yet fully possible.

[ii] British colonial policies were not simplyimposed by British elites on Cypriots. Instead, Cypriot elites worked in tandem with British elites (Harris 2007: 22,57).

[iii] Sant Cassia details seven interconnected transitions involved in this process (1993).

[iv] It was originally the Hunting and Shooting Federation before it first gained the prefix of the TRNC in 1983 and then late lost the ‘Shooting’ part of the title when the Federation divided into two organisations, one representing hunting and the other Olympic style clay pigeon shooting.

[v] ‘Game and Wild Birds Protection Law’ (1911).

[vi] Migratory hunted birds such as the thrush have yet another set of descriptors.

[vii] It is also a plank of the logic of enclosure put forward by Hardin in the misnamed ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ (Ostrom 2008), one of the most influential ways of looking at the environment and the consequent administration this informs (Locher 2013).

[viii]  These included: to be doing an activity with a friend/partner; to do sport / exercise; to be with wildlife / in nature; a love of rifles / guns; to be away for a time from the house / neighbourhood / village; to experience the feeling in the moment of hitting the prey animal; to eat the meat of the prey animal.

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