Knowing the mule: faring well in Moroccan mountain tourism
Cousquer, Glen Olivier
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The emergence of the mule’s role as a beast of burden working in mountain tourism is founded on our appreciation of this species’ great attributes as a means of transport in the mountain environment. Our appreciation of mules does not always extend to their care and welfare. This is particularly true of the mountain tourism industry in Morocco, where this study is situated. Why has there been a collective absencing of the mule from the consciences of those involved in this industry? In seeking to answer this question and in moving towards the question of how the mountain tourism industry can be more present to the mule and to mule welfare, this thesis explores the multiple ways in which we know the mule. Drawing on a ten-year engagement with the industry, extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the High Atlas and an Action Research initiative supporting tour operators as they develop and implement welfare policy and practice, this thesis explores how mule welfare can be viewed as emerging from a multiplicity of practices that, in failing to cohere, become subject to negotiation and ontological politics. An alternative community approach based on dialogue is evoked that might allow a consensus to emerge over how welfare should be practised. The thesis focuses on the quality of the relationship between mules and humans. It emphasises the importance of genuine meeting and dialogue and the need for spaces and places in which mules and humans can come together to identify how they can establish relationships based on mutual trust and understanding rather than on control and domination. In prototyping better relationships between mules, muleteers and their employers, this thesis offers the mountain tourism industry transformative pathways toward a more equitable and sustainable co-creative project.