Steps to a theory of 'animal borders': thoughts and practices toward non-human animals among the G|ui hunter-gatherers in the Central Kalahari
Paper short abstract:
The practices toward animals among the G|ui hunter-gatherers in the Central Kalahari inspire fundamental reflection on the border between human and non-human agents. This presentation examines personified animals in myth, taboos on eating meat, messages from birds, and metamorphosis.
Paper long abstract:
The term 'animal borders' implies double meaning; the border between human and non-human animals, or what demarcates the former, according to different intentional stances toward the latter. No sooner is the habitual thought of hunter-gatherers labeled as 'animism' than a sharp-cut distinction separates 'them' from 'us.' The practices toward animals among the G|ui hunter-gatherers in the Central Kalahari inspire fundamental reflection on animal borders, as well as on nature-culture dualism. The G|ui have an inventory of narratives illuminating the origin of human-animal relationship. Most of mythical characters are personified animals living as hunter-gatherers. An invisible agency denoted by a verb !nare, translated as "be affected," permeates the G|ui everyday life, invoking influential effect that extends not only to humans and/or animals but even to inanimate objects. Complex code of food regulation, the most significant of which is the taboo on several species called sumo (meat for elders) is associated with this effect. According to an oral discourse, a boy, violating the taboo on sumo, had fallen into 'madness' (dzuadzura) to imitate the cry and flapping of kori bustard. The G|ui, projecting communicative expectation toward animals, pay peculiar attention to the messages from a lot of ornithic species. These ethnographic evidences confirming the continuity of the G|ui personhood with animal existence further implicate the potentiality of metamorphosis into each other. The last point resonates with Deleuze and Guattari's <devenir> (becoming). In conclusion, as an empiricist, I will propose an ambivalent view on the "ontological turn."
Multiple nature-cultures and diverse anthropologies (CLOSED)