BH15


Querying domestication: the ethnography of human-animal entanglements 
Convenors:
Gro Ween (University of Oslo)
David Anderson (University of Aberdeen)
Marianne Elisabeth Lien (University of Oslo)
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Track:
Being Human
Location:
University Place 1.219
Sessions:
Tuesday 6 August, 9:00-10:00, 11:00-12:00, 14:00-15:00 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

The term domestication has become a problematic term to describe the complex relationships between humans and non-human animals. This panel invites perspectives and elaborations of inter-species relations that include a perspective on multiple agency involved in human-animal entanglements.

Long Abstract

Scientific definitions of domestication have traditionally narrated a sudden revolution: A radical change of approach to human-animal relations, involving technological achievements that set off a steady increase in human control over growth and reproduction. Such perspectives have been highly biased by agrarian structures. Not only do such strict definitions excluding the majority of human-animal relations, they also restrict our views of the constituent elements of human-animal entanglements.

Human-animal relations are not only hierarchical. Attempts at inventing new ways of describing ongoing inter-species encounters include terms such as 'co-domestication, 'mimesis' , 'trust', 'sentience', 'companionship', 'co-evolution', 'domus' or 'commensialism'.

New investigations of domestication pay attention to the range of what could be labeled as domestication practices. These stretch from 'the making known', to 'disciplining and ordering' to 'nurturing'. However each of these also fold into each other, including numerous possible forms of animal agency, and awareness of that animals, just as humans, also discipline and order each other.

This panel welcomes reflections on the intimate inter-species gaze - Tim Ingolds being with - as well as Donna Haraway's becoming with. We also encourage people to think of how relationships are emplaced in specific environments which might include sentient landscape features, water, weather, and technologies. The panel is open to ethnographies on -the myriad of entangled co-shaping.

Accepted papers:

Author:

David Anderson (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper surveys 40 years of applied biological work involving the 'translocation' and 'restoration' of endangered or extinct fauna across the circumpolar North.

Paper long abstract:

For forty years, often taking keen advantage of the authoritarian registers of the Cold War, a number of experiements have been launched in introducing or 'restoring' extinct or endangered fauna across the circumpolar. Keynote examples include muskrat, bison, muskoxen, and even attempts to retrobreed wooly mammoths. This applied biological work is often justified as an attempt to restore environments to an 'eden-like' state from before paleolithic human hunters disrupted it. The real-time relocations however disrupt ongoing human-animal relationships in these regions often governed by indigenous people. The paper will query the notions of the natural and of restoration as well as the relationships of power that these notions imply.

Authors:

Jan Peter Laurens Loovers (University of Aberdeen)
Robert Wishart (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper concerns the historical and present-day relations between Gwich'in, dogs, fish, and caribou. We will discuss how these relations have continued even after dissolving mercantile relationships.

Paper long abstract:

Dogs have played a significant role in the lives of aboriginal peoples in the circumpolar North. Dogs have been used for hunting, travelling, and protection. Aboriginal peoples, however, recount that dogs are an integral part of a larger 'meshwork' between animals and humans. More specifically, fish and caribou are a significant occurrence in these stories. Building upon research with the Teetł'it Gwich'in, this presentation will first highlight how the florescence of the fur trade in the Mackenzie Delta, in the 19th century, owed a great deal to the crafting and cultivation of these relationships. The tremendous capital risk in this mercantile enterprise was alleviated through the implementation of an investment practice which took advantage of this meshwork. Preserved fish were 'banked' by the traders to be fed to the Gwich'in dogs that were used to hunt caribou whose meat allowed for successful trapping, trade, food, and transport of fur. Then moving to the present, we will explore how the fur trade has mostly disappeared and snow mobiles have replaced dog teams and yet, unpredictably, the Gwich'in continue to cultivate strong human-animal relationships with all parts of this trinity. The historical and present day relationships between people, dogs, fish and caribou in Teetł'it Gwich'in country will be positioned so as to demonstrate how these relationships undermine popular scientific notions of domestication and wildness, and how the cultivation of historical mercantile relationships could lead towards an understanding of what is at stake for the Gwich'in if the connections in this mesh dissolve.

Author:

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.

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.

Author:

Clinton Westman (University of Saskatchewan)

Paper short abstract:

Studies of Cree relations with animals have focused on their ambivalence, invoking categories such as friendship, love, pity, enmity, exchange, and deception to explain the dynamic between predator and prey, analytically providing insight in other Amerindian cultural contexts as well.

Paper long abstract:

Influential ethnographic studies (Tanner 1979; Brightman 1993) of Cree relations with animals have focused on the ambivalence, alternately invoking categories such as friendship, love, pity, enmity, exchange, and deception to explain the dynamic between predator and prey, spirit and supplicant. More recently, the relevance of this dynamic to Amazonian perspectivism has been considered both by Algonquianists (Hornborg 2008) and Amazonianists (Fausto 2007). The former has considered Amazonian perspectivism in light of Algonquian animism and sacred geography, while the latter considers Algonquian hunting relations in relation to Amazonian debates on hunting, cannibalism, commensality, and war. In all the above cases the focus is on intersubjective relations within a potentially unstable ontological frame. I will synthesize and critique this theoretical debate, while relating it to my own fieldwork in northern Alberta. I consider the ambivalent, unstable relationships described above as one entry point into querying ideas about domestication, personhood, and other human-animal entanglements.

Author:

Vladimir Davydov (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss how Russian ethnography reflected human-animal relations and domestication in northern Baikal region. It will discuss how the researchers perceived reindeer and how they saw the difference between the ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ reindeer.

Paper long abstract:

The categories such as 'wild' and 'domesticated' reindeer are rooted in the accounts of early Russian ethnographers. They usually perceived reindeer through the prism of their own experience of other animals and often assumed that reindeer were similar to small horses that predetermined the way they interpreted their qualities, needs, movements and relations with people. Many debates concerning the improvement of reindeer herders' everyday tasks took place in the region. A number of Russian authors described reindeer herding from the evolutionist perspective as less developed compared to agriculture and cattle breeding. Some of them were the proponents of semi-sedentary 'log-houses reindeer herding'. In many cases they neglected how human-animal relationships were emplaced in northern Baikal landscape. Human-reindeer relations were never the relations attributed to one certain place, but to a number of places such as summer and winter pastures, calving territories. Furthermore, these were always the relations on the move from place to place. The early soviet ethnographic researches of reindeer herding steadily shifted to 'industrial' paradigm where every animal was supposed to be counted and measured. This logic was based on the hierarchical view, neglected the intimate way of inter species gaze and presented reindeer as if they were not with people but stayed rather separated. It approached reindeer not as 'companions' to people but rather as 'tools' or 'transport' they employed to move. Even though administrators saw a reindeer herd as homogenous mass, Evenki reindeer herders perceived it as composed of animals which had distinctive characters and habits.

Author:

Ilse Mirjam Kamerling (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Interactions between reindeer herding Sámi and Norse farmers took place at known market towns. Little is known about interactions outside of the market towns due to scarce archaeological evidence. A palynological approach is applied here to determine the nature and timing of cultural interactions.

Paper long abstract:

The provinces of Norrbotten and Västerbotten, Northern Sweden, were originally inhabited by Sámi (semi-nomadic reindeer herder-hunters). Despite high latitudes, favourable maritime influences allowed for the development of sedentary farming. In near-coastal areas, settlement by incoming Norse agriculturalists was initiated at ca AD 500, followed by intensification during the 12th century AD and extension inland.

Interaction between the Sámi and the Norse agriculturalists is evident from archaeological finds and references in Norse mythology. Initial contact appears to have been relatively friendly: goods were traded in market places and Sámi were allowed to continue hunting in the cultivated areas. By AD 1300, however, the Sámi of Västerbotten had largely converted to Christianity and adopted Swedish surnames because those who refused were denied access to Christian-owned lands. Little is known about Sámi and Norse co-existence in the wider areas surrounding the market places, mainly due to a lack of archaeological evidence: Sámi used only few artefacts and especially those involved in reindeer herding do not preserve well. Apart from finds of Sámi camps, including hearths and slag-rich surfaces, their presence is difficult to trace.

A palynological approach is applied here to address the issue of the nature and timing of the cultural interactions. A difficulty comes in discerning and differentiating between the impacts of the Sámi and the Norse on their environment, when the palynological indications may be slight and similar for both cultures. In addition to conventional pollen analyses, proxies including coprophilous fungal spores, microscopic charcoal and sedimentology will also be presented.

Authors:

Margaret McKenna (ConTEXT)
John Levesque (King County, Washington, USA)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the spatial dimensions, values, and social norms related to a contemporary nature-culture clash evident in the human-wildlife conflicts that occur in many developed communities where human-made structures of wildlife bridges have been built to protect humans and wildlife.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropologists have studied interactions between humans and domesticated animals; however, the interactions between humans and wild animal species, referred to as human-wildlife conflicts, call for study. Human-wildlife conflicts occur when humans and animals are in territorial proximity such as human settlements in forest-edge regions where wild animals historically roamed but have now become the intruders that challenge the humans. An anthropological view of space is that it is divided into animal and human spheres, which leads to the social understanding that animals or humans may be in or out of their respective environs, then cross a spatial boundary in a culture-nature conflict. Human- made barriers such as multi-lane highways have fragmented animal habitat, which has led to detrimental impacts that include increased animal and human mortality due to wildlife-vehicle collisions, decreased quality of animal habitat, and divided vulnerable wildlife sub-populations. These outcomes have pressured engineers to mitigate the effects through construction of structures known as wildlife crossings, above or under roadways to facilitate safe wildlife movement, increase the amount of habitat for animal species, and reduce habitat fragmentation. The development of wildlife crossings has brought out individuals' opposing positions based on underlying values related to wildlife. Wildlife crossings are a modern day exhibit of the culture-nature clash and have generated new social norms about what wildlife interactions are acceptable in some spaces, what meanings are attached to these experiences, and what financial investments should be made to protect wildlife and save human lives in light of human-wildlife entanglements.

Author:

Marianne Elisabeth Lien (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores domesticatioin 'after nature'. Drawing on fieldwork on salmon aquaculture, I explore domestication 'from below', attending to the textures and temporalities through which human-salmon assemblages are precariously held together.

Paper long abstract:

Significant achievements were made in the study of domestication when nature and culture represented opposite poles of the human-animal relation, and domestication could be framed as a significant moment in an imagined evolutionary path towards human cilivilization.

This paper seeks to explore domestication 'after nature'. Dismissing ontological dualisms of nature and culture, and sharply assymmetrical distributions of agency, I seek to explore domestication 'from below', asking what are the textures and socio-material qualities that hold human-animal assemblages together?

The paper draws on extended fieldwork in salmon aquaculture. With a relatively short history, salmon are still 'newcomers to the farm', and salmon production sites thus offer an opportunity to study 'animal husbandry in the making'. Yet, what could be seen as a paradigmatic case of successful 'human control of nature', is also, or perhaps instead, a precarious assemblage. Drawing attention to the textures and temporalities of contemporary aquaculture I propose an alternative approach to the history of human-animal domestication.

Author:

Shingo Odani (Chiba University)

Paper short abstract:

This study focuses on extensive pig husbandry and its changes of the Bosavi society in Highlands fringe of Papua New Guinea in relation to subsistence and social system, compared with intensive husbandry of Highlands societies which has been inquired in detail.

Paper long abstract:

This study focuses on pig husbandry and its changes of the Bosavi in Highlands fringe of Papua New Guinea. Because New Guinea Island locates the east of the Wallace Line, pigs should be restricted Sus scrofa domesticus. However, around the habitat there are many wild pigs harmful to cultivation and attacking humans. Intervention to pig reproduction is minimum, that domestic sows copulate with wild boar in forests, because all male piglets are castrated to avoid becoming wild. Piglets are fed about 2 months around the owner's house, and then released to forests with daily feeding. When the owner makes fewer efforts, sometimes piglets become wild. When owners still domesticate pregnant sows, piglets will be domestic, or vice versa piglets will be wild. Pig/human ratio was 0.55 in 2006 smaller than figures of Highlands societies. The Bosavi's husbandry suggests the early form of pig domestication, in which biological classification between wild and domestic is obscure.

However, people classify wild and domestic pigs linguistically. The extensiveness relates to their subsistence system with quick restoration of forests from cultivation, which provides enough protein resources such as small marsupials. Recently, the importance of domestic pig increases, because of introduction of Highlands social system which attaches importance to pig as bride price. In addition, people regard domestic pigs as "pets" or "family" inappropriate for cash trade, while wild pig frequently trade using cash. Because of recent acceptance of the monetary economy, people occasionally disguise domestic pigs as wild pigs in order to earn cash.

Author:

Paride Bollettin (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

The paper aims to reflect on the ways in which Central Brazil Mebengokré-Xikrin indigenous comunity thinks about members of other living species. It wants to highlight how different animals contribute to the definition of a network of subjectivities in dialogue and that build relationships.The paper aims to reflect on the ways in which Central Brazil Mebengokré-Xikrin indigenous comunity thinks about members of other living species. It wants to highlight how different animals contribute to the definition of a network of subjectivities in dialogue that build relationships.

Paper long abstract:

Starting from a fieldwork experience that dates since 2005, the paper intends to present some significant ethnographic examples that may help to reflect on how Central Brazil Mebengokré-Xikrin maintain relationships with other living species. Terrestrial animals, fish and birds appear, both in the narratives and in everyday life, as ones who have a specific agentivity capable of affecting humans. From these descriptions the paper will show how these relationships can allow a transformative potential necessary for the formation of properly mebengokré human beings. Dressing with feathers during a ritual, using the name of a fish, meeting an animal during the hunt, in this context are specific ways of entering into dialogues with other living beings in a constant process of formation of the human. In this way, it appears the need to think about these relationships from a deconstruction of the nature/culture dichotomy point of view in favor of an increasing numbers of individual relationships and partnerships.