CASCA/IUAES2017 Conference in Ottawa
- Alexander Oehler (University of Northern British Columbia) email
- Sarah Carmen Moritz (McGill University ) email
This panel invites papers concerned with the ways in which movement entangles humans, animals and materials in northern landscapes. It focuses on land features and material implements as nexuses between humans and animals in motion.
This panel invites papers exploring human-animal relations through contexts of movement that transcend conventional wild-tame dichotomies. Based on the key premise that inter-species relations do not have to be collaborative or affectionate to be social, our emphasis lies on ethnographic accounts in which land features and/or material implements form communicative nexuses between beings in motion. Instead of approaching human-made implements and environmental modifications (e.g. cairns, dams, tethers, nets, trails, traps, ponds, canals, etc.) as manifestations of human exploitation or control, we seek more nuanced interpretations that take into account animal autonomy and intentional use of the material world. We inquire how animals are known to engage modified environments, and how people interpret, accommodate, or encourage animal utilization of the human-made. In this context, we ask how objects of joint movement (e.g. sleds, saddles, reins) become implements of inter-species communication rather than of control only, and how dynamic aspects of the environment (e.g. water currents, tides, winds) are enlisted in inter-species movement. Given the emplacement of joint and opposed movements in shared landscapes, we seek to gain a better understanding of how diverse beings draw benefit from material or perceptive advantages they identify in others. We ask, how does relational movement encourage the embodiment and accommodation of an other's perspective (i.e. hunter vs. prey), and in situations of intentional congruence (e.g. falconer and falcon), what are examples of multi-sensorial sharing? Finally, where joint or opposed movement do not apply, what can we learn from other contexts, such as affection, competition, or aloofness?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
The trap as a home: domination and mutualism in Gwich'in sensibilities about trapping.
In playing between theories of domination and mutualism I argue that trapping is an activity that works within the movements of animals and people and within a sensibility of the land and homes.
The Gwich'in of the Mackenzie Valley have consistently positioned trapping as a valuable exercise despite fluctuations in the price of furs. Materialist anthropological theories created an image of trapping as an activity that necessarily leads to individualism, alienation and disenchantment. The rise of anti-fur sentiments in the 1970's helped cement this imaginary of the trapper. In contrast I argue that trapping as it is practiced today is far from being an alienating practice. Indigenous trappers build their traps and trap-lines in ways that suit their pre-existing practices of movement on the land and work within the social structures of a hunting life-world today. Trappers talk about how trapping requires knowing the land and relating to the animals in respectful ways and knowing how to invite them into their traps. For the trappers I worked with, creating the correct architecture for animal 'homes' is the key to luring animals into giving themselves to the trap. In order to dispel the imaginary of the cruel, dominator of animals it is tempting to turn instead to thoughts on mutualism, but it would be difficult to argue that this activity does not require some deception. The trap can be interpreted as part of a historical continuum of design within various Northern architectures of human animal relations where the precepts of domination and mutualism are complicated by the experiences of trappers. Trapping is valued because it plays upon the signs and expectations which lie between the past and the present and between domination and mutualism
Articulating shared materialities: interspecies communication in St'át'imc and Soiot fishing contexts
This paper brings into dialogue critical observations about human-animal communication and movement in North American and Inner Asian indigenous fishing livelihoods.
Human-animal relations, constituted through shared movements in Northern landscapes, fundamentally question and transcend conventional wild-tame and domination-subordination binaries. They provide fundamental insights into the distinct qualities of collaborative places of 'home'. This paper explores the intricacies of how fishing nets along the Fraser River of British Columbia, Canada and the Sorok River in Buriatia, Russia are engaged to foster complex enduring inter-species relationalities. We focus on animated aspects of the landscape, including water currents, temperatures, river curvature and ice, and the specific ways these are engaged, perceived, and articulated across time and space. St'át'imc fisherpersons practice a way of life possible only through intimate knowledge of the land. This relationship includes respect, ceremonial action regarding nets, water, and the spirit of the fish, and a promise to continually re-new a bond inviting fish to return abundantly to accept the river, nets, and humans as their home. Soiots of the Eastern Saian Mountains rely on alpine fisheries to complement herding and hunting activities. Drawing on intricate knowledge of seasonal fish migrations, fisherpersons abide by the protocols of landscape and waterbody spirit masters to encourage fish into their nets. Hot springs, ice surfaces and loose rock are invoked to mobilize fish, while escape routes are provided deliberately. Thus, our paper inquires how inter-coordinated movement in water encourages the accommodation of human and animal perspectives in situations of intentional congruence and discord. Importantly, contrasting observations allows us to postulate an inclusive, anti-materialist and documented argument about interspecies communication through movement across northern contexts.
Living with dogs: a study on the social dynamics of a dog park
This paper analyzes the dichotomy of the animal-human interaction through shifting perceptions of dogs in a space created to promote inter-species interaction.
Through examination of animal-human relationships in a space created to encourage inter-species interaction, I have considered the question of the changing perceptions of a dog's "personhood". As pets continue to possess increasing importance within the family dynamic, I consider how they are viewed as next to kin, and treated more like a dependent child than an animal. The anthropomorphizing of canine companions continues to increase, begging the question of their position within dynamics of family and community life. The question of position is complicated as I illuminate arising tensions in the ambiguity of just how much human status a dog can hold. Spaces such as the one I examine here call us to consider how animals and humans move together in the formation of a complex communicative nexus, allowing for a space of redefining the animal-human dichotomy. We learn through observations of such places the important positions animals hold in human life, and how a space in which allows for inter-species communication becomes crucial to the well-being of both pet and owner. This examination of shared space and shifting perceptions of dogs, has allowed for insight on how, as two species move together, the boundaries of the animal-human dichotomy are blurred.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.