Accepted Paper:

Anthrozoological ethnography of human-horse agency  


Marion Mangelsdorf (Albert-Ludwigs-Universit├Ąt Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

Following my oberservations of horses, both in interaction with their fellow species and with humans, I present my anthrozoological ethnography of cross-species-interaction. Thereby I examine the role of kinesthetic empathy in creating a 'third language' and in bridging different types of agency.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2007, I have been following the daily life of an human-equine sociality in the Black Forest in Germany. In this contribution, I discuss the first results of my empirical equestrian studies, whereby my focus is on the cross-species-interaction between humans and horses.

Aided by findings in (cognitive) ethology, the significance of kinesthetic empathy is emphasized for the process of interaction. This empathy seems to be a fundamental base for any rapprochement: for my participant observation, for the processes observed, and for ethnography as a scientific technique of writing.

I question the potential of this ability at a methodological and phenomenological level: What differences in behaviour do I perceive (in exchange with cognitive and behavioural science) if horses interact with fellow species or with humans? What sensations and emotions do people report when observing or experiencing horse interaction? How do humans (direct-line thinkers) communicate with horses (lateral thinkers) to create a mutually third language, where every breath, movement, gesture and activity of the other becomes 'readable'?

I aim to document my ethnographic studies by means of photo spread, video recordings and written texts. I will examine different types of agency and question the possibilities and boundaries of rapprochement, in a methodological and phenomenological context.

Finally, I explore the implications of kinesthetic empathy for the human relationship to nonhumans in daily life, training and scientific praxis; I will discuss the question of autonomy and dependency of humans and nonhumans in newly formed 'Umwelten'.

Panel P14
Understanding humans understanding horses: constructed and co-created cultures