Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Primary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
The recent “species turn” in anthropology has revealed a critical need to take nonhumans seriously as ethnographic subjects and collaborators in multispecies worlds. Research characterized as multispecies ethnography and anthropology “beyond-the-human” make clear that humans have never been alone in their social, ecological, and material worlds, and imagining shared futures requires anthropological attention to nonhumans. However, accounting for the ways in which humans engage with nonhumans in worldmaking endeavors poses unique methodological challenges, not least because of the complexity of multispecies encounters and the diversity of contexts in which they exist. Researchers must therefore develop methodological approaches that are able to tease apart the intersubjective relations between individuals of different species, while also recognizing that members of the same species often approach such encounters differently.
Multispecies research is at the nexus of the changing anthropological imagination. As typical ethnographic methods are oriented toward understanding human perspectives and behaviors, multispecies ethnographers often combine multiple subfields of anthropology, utilize mixed methods approaches, and call attention to non-linguistic, affective, and artistic encounters. Given the diversity of methodological approaches already employed, and the new directions that ethnographers could take, multispecies ethnography is in an excellent position to render accounts of interspecies intersubjectivities that do not privilege the experience of one life form over another. Such reframings tug at the boundaries of the anthropological imagination, adapting it to more holistically account for the complex multispecies entanglements comprising human life.
Expanding on current trends in multispecies research, the papers on this panel address the need to understand how anthropologists can successfully undertake ethnographic research with nonhumans. How can we shift our ethnographic attention to ensure that we account for and represent a range of multispecies interactions? In what ways can we re-attune ourselves as researchers to include those who have been left at the margins of anthropology. What is at stake, empirically and epistemologically, when humans are decentered from multispecies research? How can our methodological creativity contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding multispecies encounters? We address these questions and their myriad implications by highlighting novel approaches to observing and analyzing multispecies encounters. Diversifying the avenues by which we understand these multispecies entanglements is essential for anthropology as we attempt to untangle the range of lived experiences underlying Anna Tsing’s statement that “human nature is an interspecies relationship” (Tsing 2012).