Accepted Paper:

What's Underfoot? Emplacing Identity in Practice among Horse-Human Pairs  

Authors:

Anita Maurstad (Tromsø University Museum)
Dona Davis (University of South Dakota)
Sarah Cowles (University of South Dakota)

Paper short abstract:

This multi-species ethnographic study compares and contrasts the kinds of entangled identities that emerge as horse-rider pairs, together, traverse different types of terrain. Horse and human are paired together, defined, distinguished, and identified by the environments they work within.

Paper long abstract:

Previous definitions of domestication that excluded human-animal pair relations are too restrictive. An exploration of these paired interactions within diverse environments features emplacement as a changeable and dynamic concept. This multi-species ethnographic study compares and contrasts the kinds of entangled identities that emerge as horse-rider pairs, together, traverse different types of terrain. Horse and human are paired together, defined, distinguished, and identified by the environments they work within. Focusing on the equestrian sports of Icelandic gaited horse riding, dressage, and endurance riding, the study demonstrates how different kinds of emplacements engender a sense of mutuality between horse and rider, not as subject and object but as two intra-active, agentive individuals. Analysis of narrative data gathered during open-ended interviews, with a sample of 60 people who participate in different equestrian sports, privileges informants' commonsense, experiential worlds. The study combines perspectives from the broader fields of practice theory, environmental communalism, and biosociality. What comes through in the narratives is a deep sense of entanglement with the horse or a sense of shared identity, 'we-making' or 'withness' when horse and rider take on the challenges of navigating different terrains. Whether riding in highly circumscribed and well-groomed arenas, traveling to challenging terrains, or having a versatile outdoors at your door-step, terrain becomes an important signifier of differences in how co-domestication becomes enacted and expressed. Emplacement is changeable and dynamic, involving engineering, seeking, or being within particular landscapes, and also involving, literally and figuratively, physical movement and the immediacy of the ground underfoot.

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