Eavesdropping in The Cove: Interspecies ethics, public and private space, and trauma under water


The Cove is an activist documentary that seeks to stop the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan by means of an intense, clandestine field deployment of high-tech cameras and audio recorders to infiltrate the forbidden above and under water space of the lagoon and expose the stabbing, suffering and dying. Responses to the film have questioned the depiction of coastal whalers and whether the film’s focus on dolphins neglects the broader catastrophe of marine life depletion. This article develops a spatial media approach to reframe these and raise other questions. Extrapolating from ‘eavesdropping’ – a research practice that marine mammal scientists use to study dolphin-to-dolphin and dolphin-to-human communication – the article explores how The Cove extends documentary modalities to observe, hear and interact with dolphins in their aquatic environment. This article also considers how certain philosophical and geographical concepts resonate with the literatures of trauma and interspecies studies. The Cove is conceptualized here as a device for mapping and navigating the ecology of the dolphin-human interaction.

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