Accepted Paper:

Affective work in living and working with captive dolphins  

Author:

Veronique Servais (University of Liège)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from fieldwork in a marine park, the presentation will describe the relationship that dolphins and their trainers develop. It appears that learning how to be affected by and how to affect the partner is a key component of an interspecific collaboration that isn’t sheer domination.

Paper long abstract:

The presentation is based on ethnographic work conducted with dolphin trainers at an aquatic park in France. Among professional trainers, this park is renowned (and laughed at) for the specific way it tries to "let the dolphins be themselves" instead of ruling by sheer domination. Here, trainers let the dolphins "talk back" to them and adapt themselves to the dolphins. In their view, they are doing true collaborative work: they don't use punishment, neither restrain, nor food deprivation, but they try to keep alive the dolphins' desire to learn. In this context, it appears that affective work plays an important role to preserve good relationships. Trainers are always at risk of putting "too much" emotion in their work, or the wrong one, but at the same time they need to let them be affected by the dolphins. In order to become an efficient trainer, they need to learn how to do so. It means learning to attend and be sensitive to specific signs, to restrain from "letting emotions get into the training", building mutual trust through swimming together, and cultivating a mindful presence to the dolphins during the training sessions. Doing this, trainers produce the body of the dolphin in such a way that the world of the dolphins can affect them, and produce their own body in such a way that their world can affect the dolphins in return. The result is an entanglement of worlds that I shall try to describe, taking into account the ethical question.

Panel P122
Living well together: considering connections of health, wellbeing and work in the lives of humans and other living beings [Humans and Other Living Beings]