Accepted Paper:

The Nature of Arctic Domestication  


Gro Ween (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, human-salmon relations in the High North are employed to destabilise agrarian perspectives of animal domestication. With Arctic fishermen and reindeer herders in mind, I discuss key terms associated with different definitions of domestication, such as ‘capture’ and ‘becoming with’.

Paper long abstract:

The agrarian structures entrenched in biological understanding of domestication, places limitations on the uses of the term for anthropological purposes. As Ingold (2000) has pointed out, the biological definition reifies an understanding of domestication as a steady increase in human control over growth and reproduction. Agrarian domestication is closely associated with selective breeding. Such a definition, places us in a position where we act upon nature, ignoring how animals act upon us, and ignoring numerous possible forms of existing animal agency.

Agrarian definitions have recently been challenged by more symmetrical approaches, treating domestication as a two-way process. Such recent definitions emphasise unintended consequences rather than human mastery (Cassidy 2007, see also Haraway 2007). In the simplest version of such a perspective, even simple hunter-gatherers affect the composition of populations of animals they rely upon for their existence. Following up the ambition of symmetry, Ingold has argued the significance of capture for the evolution of domestication. Capture here situates humans and non-humans in a relational web, where animals and humans are part of networks of reciprocal interdependency. Capture here, is perceived as a dialogue, where trust is essential, as a combination of autonomy and dependency. Instances of what could be described as domestication of salmon and reindeer exemplified in this paper illustrate the necessity of stressing the knowledge inherent to capture, not simply of the animal, but of animal travels. Literally, this knowledge brings the animal into human grasp, in other words, it enables domestication of the animal.

Panel BH15
Querying domestication: the ethnography of human-animal entanglements