Accepted paper:

Making partners in the Arctic: dog entanglements with fish, Caribou and people


Jan Peter Laurens Loovers (British Museum)

Paper short abstract:

This paper revises domestication through the making of partners between dogs and Gwich’in in northern Canada.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1860s, Frances Galton commenced a treatise on domestication. Building on examples across the globe, including those from the Americas, Galton elaborated on the history of domesticating animals and shared its findings with his famous cousin Charles Darwin. Flowing out of older Enlightenment thinking, such Anthropogenetic perspectives on domestication would become strongly embedded in “Western Science” and “popular Western thought”. Recent theories on domestication have moved away from these perspectives and give credit to the role that animals have played in the process. Ethnographic work with indigenous peoples in the Americas has shed further insights on human-animal relations and notions of personhood. Domestication, or multi-species ethnographies for that matter, however, has often been side-tracked in these discussions. In this paper, based on work with Gwich’in in the Canadian North, I want to address vernacular ‘Working Dogs’. These ‘working-dogs’ were of vital importance for the Gwich’in, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Missionaries. In this paper, the focus moves to the making of partners were dogs are “crafted” or “designed” through food (e.g. caribou and fish), breeding (e.g. cross with wolves or particular dogs), and co-inhabiting with Gwich’in. Thus, I conclude, ‘working dogs’ need to be considered as partners entangled in a mesh of relations in which notions such as property and objects are challenged and reformulated.

panel P24
Objects, persons or property? Revisiting human-animal relations in the Andes, Amazonia and the American Arctic