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Accepted Paper:

Seeing One Animal, Two Beings  
Kymberley Chu (Princeton University)

Paper Short Abstract:

A comparative ethnography of citizen scientists, endangered dusky langurs, and long-tailed macaques in Penang, Malaysia, illustrates how various multispecies relations are mediated through primate conservationist discourses and the semiotics of human-animal conflict.

Paper Abstract:

Affective ethologies highlight how human-monkey interactions are uneven, laden with power hierarchies, and mediated through shifting ecological relations across various landscapes (Barua and Sinha 2022, Sinha 2021). A comparative ethnography of citizen scientists, endangered dusky langurs, and long-tailed macaques in Penang, Malaysia, illustrates how various multispecies relations are mediated through primate conservationist discourses and the semiotics of human-animal conflict. Here I offer insights from preliminary fieldwork in Penang’s urban neighborhoods, tracing how citizen scientists and urban residents reconcile dualistic perceptions of monkey animality as ‘passive objects of leisure’ worthy due to their perceived biodiversity value and as ‘pests who contribute to infrastructural damage’. In tracing conservationist fieldwork practices and primate behavioral data, citizen scientists appear to capture ideas of monkey animality that transcend the commonplace frames of human-animal relations as always conflictual and exploitative. These emerging narratives push back against the state’s governance discourse around monkeys as ecologically destructive while highlighting monkeys as agential beings whose lives and relations to humans are mediated by anthropogenic activities (e.g., urban horticulture) and the structural dynamics of urban landscapes. Through autoethnography, as a citizen scientist, and via the use of primate-focused photography, I encourage paying closer attention to how shifting ecological relations mediate species management solutions and relations, while reframing the conservationist method of deterrence as a continuum of care.

Panel P196
Uncertain methods, elusive lives: exploring the methodological and relational horizons of doing research with more-than-humans
  Session 2 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -