Accepted paper:

Postdomesticity in Somaliland? A post-anthropocentric inquiry into 'anthropocene' transformations of human-camel relations


Raphael Schwere (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines transformations of human-camel relations in the context of environmental and social dynamics in Somaliland. What is more, the empiric insights afford an interrogation of the 'Anthropocene' concept and outline its local manifestations.

Paper long abstract:

Companion animals are "partners in the crime of human evolution" (Haraway), which, I argue, holds true for Somaliland's camels as well. Humans and camels in this region strode jointly through time and space, through environmental and social transformations. And, despite the recent political and climatic crises, the economic and cultural importance of the camel persisted. Moreover, this importance endures while the role of and relations to camels did and does change. This paper will shed light on the transformation of human-camel relations in the unrecognized de-facto Republic of Somaliland-home to approximately two million camels and a camel passionate society. In this setting, both rupture and continuity shape the ways humans and camels interact and relate to each other. Empirically, the paper is based on an ongoing PhD research project in which the trajectory of the transformation of this relationship is ethnographically and historically analyzed. Specifically, and adhering to the state of the art in the current debates in the human-animal relations studies, the transformation of human-camel relations is post-anthropocentrically examined by interrelating changing practices of camel experts with altered camel lives. Embedding these findings in environmental (e.g. drought 2017) and social dynamics suggests that a transition towards "postdomestic" (Bulliet) relations is under way. Furthermore, the empiric insights with regard to the role of camels at the nexus between man-made ecological changes and socio-political reactions, such as environmental degradation (e.g. overgrazing) and land and water governance, will serve to interrogate the 'Anthropocene' concept and outline its local manifestations.

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Social Anthropology
Multiple African anthropocenes: universal concepts, local manifestations