Corals in the City: Cultivating Ocean Life in the Anthropocene City

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Ocean life is often portrayed as antithetical to life in the city. Drawing on interviews with coral hobbyists and aquarists, my article focuses on the emergence of the coral aquarium hobby within the urban home. I depict the recent fascination of city dwellers from around the globe with corals, explore the history and contemporary characteristics of those who propagate them as well as their reasons for doing so, and examine the urban coral industry. I also argue that corals reveal the problems with existing regulatory modes of classifying animals. The corals who live in urban tanks are not exactly wild, nor are they domesticated; they are not exactly pets, nor are they plants or ornaments; and since they are clones, it is hard to determine where one individual starts and another begins – and what death even means in this context, in which production and consumption are intertwined. Finally, while tropical corals are dying at alarming rates in the oceans, their numbers in the city are on the rise. Instead of heading to tropical islands to experience corals up close, coral enthusiasts are transplanting themselves into the city as their corals require careful attention to survive in the urban environment.

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Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences


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