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Multispecies Anthropology

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Natasha Myers

on 15 February 2011

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Transcript of Multispecies Anthropology

Nature, Culture, and the Posthumanities “Nature begins to function like an 'exotic' culture. The goal is multi-species ethnography should not just be to give voice, agency or subjectivity to the nonhuman – to recognize them as others, visible in their difference – but to force us to radically rethink these categories of our analysis as they pertain to all beings” (Eduardo Kohn quoted in Kirksey and Helmreich, 2010; 562-563). Representation Nonhuman Agency? Thinking Relationality Who can speak for the nonhuman others? “Human nature is an interspecies relationship.” (Anna Tsing) On "tactical biopolitics" of bioart and ecoart ::
“Bioart is organized around attempts to detour, derail, or expose these regimes of domination and systems for managing “life.” (Kirksey & Helmreich, 2010:13). “Latour sees parallels between politicians who speak for other people and biologists who speak for nonhumans.“
(Kirksey & Helmreich, 2010:11) “How can or should or do anthropologists speak with and for nonhuman others?”
(Kirksey & Helmreich, 2010:554). “What counts as a social relation and who can participate?”


“...detachment emerges as the constant counterpart and complement of engagement, not as its radical alternative” (Candea, 2010:244). "Which bodies come to matter?" Reflection

Candea’s article touched upon the concept of “inter-patience” (Candea 2010: 244) as a mode of relationship that the meerkat researchers adapt along with their research subjects, which is in between the dualistic notions of “detachment” and “engagement”. The author points out that the animals themselves are agents in allowing human presence to a particular extent, just as the humans are also “patient” (Candea 2010: 249) in regards to the distance and events that they allow to unfurl before their eyes. We are always forced to balance in between those two seemingly opposite extremes, even in our daily life, where humans ignore each other most of the time, keeping a polite distance and yet remaining attentive, similarly to the meerkat behaviour in relation to one another and to humans (Candea 2010: 247). This means that the creation of knowledge is not derived from an “all-knowing” and “detached” vantage point, but always has to be improvisational and creative, which is similar to Haraway’s notion of “situated knowledges” and James Clifford’s “partial truths”. It is not at any time “all true” or “all fiction” (Candea 2010: 254). This also relates to Cerwonka and Malkki’s notion of always having to adapt to the situation at hand when writing anthropological ethnography, and that it is very much a balance in between personal feelings, thoughts, moods and reactions as well as the “stepping back” to revise and improvise the theory. Thus, the problem of representation also arises, since the process of knowledge-production is not necessarily explained to the public, especially that the filmmakers left out all “gray” areas and uncertainties in relation to the life of the meerkats (Candea 2010: 255), presenting everything as a pure fact and producing an image of the “God Trick” (Haraway 1988:581).
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