Carleton Virtual Breakfast Club
with Janet M. Davis ’86
Sharkmania! A Cultural History
Thursday, February 10, 2022
8:00 a.m. Central Time
Americans are obsessed with sharks. Popular productions, such as Jaws, Shark Week, and “Baby Shark” are ubiquitous cultural references and reliably profitable. Scientific organizations, such as Ocearch participate in this cultural frenzy through their use of satellite telemetry, which tracks sharks and sends notifications to thousands of followers on social media. Although extremely rare, shark bite incidents saturate the news media whenever they occur. And yet, despite the escalating proliferation of pop cultural sharks, global shark populations are plummeting owing to industrial fishing, pollution, and climate change.
Janet M. Davis ’86 will discuss her current book project, a transnational American cultural history of human and shark entanglements from the Age of Sail to the Age of Internet Sharks. “Sharkmania” is an enduring cultural barometer of trauma, fear, fascination, and (depending on cultural context) veneration. The history of human/shark entanglements is inexorably tied to the Middle Passage, war, empire building, whaling and its demise, new beach-based forms of leisure, and technological change. While scientists have identified more than 500 diverse shark species within the class of cartilaginous vertebrate fish, Chondrichthyes and subclass, Elasmobranchii, four species have figured most prominently in historical human/shark interactions: Oceanic whitetips; Tiger sharks; Bull sharks; and Great White sharks—all of whom live in specific environments that are also historically situated sites of human and animal contact: the deep ocean (shipwrecks and airplane crashes); the shallows (beaches); and surf zones.
Register by Wednesday, February 9 to participate in this Zoom meeting.
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