(Re)Imagining Snakes: Lessons from a Meme

Stephen Michael Lochetto (Penn State Harrisburg)

Snakes are at the top of American phobias. Where does this attitude originate? To what extent is it biological or cultural? Can snakes be painted in a more appealing light? In this presentation, I explicate the myriad of reasons that serve to promulgate and reinforce what I call a “phylogenetic hegemony,” a dominant discourse that advances negative perceptions of reptiles in general and snakes in particular. Fortunately, such attitudes can be culturally manipulated. I present evidence culled from digital ethnography that disrupts this hegemony. Changing attitudes towards snakes and other reptiles can have conservation implications. This presentation highlights the importance of new kinds of evidence in herpetological studies and the potential for a biological humanities approach.

Part of 07-06 Reading Popular Culture Through Folklore, Saturday, November 04, 8:30 am–10:00 am