P15
Internal others: ethnographies of euroamerican naturalism

Convenors:
Matei Candea (University of Cambridge)
Lys Alcayna-Stevens (College de France)
Location:
Arts Hall
Start time:
15 September, 2011 at 9:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

This panel attempts to 'take seriously' the practices and beliefs which lie at the heart of Euroamerican naturalist approaches to non-humans. It invites papers which consider the new ethical and epistemological possibilities which are opened up by such an approach.

Long abstract:

The 'multispecies turn' in anthropology has been spearheaded by an "exo-anthropology" which has explored non-western ontological engagements with life beyond the human, mapped against the purportedly familiar epistemological concerns of a dualist and detached Euroamerican (mono)naturalism. In the meantime, the "endo-anthropology" of Euroamerican human-animal relations has tended to explore those areas which belie or contest the assumed hegemony of western naturalism: companion species, ecological activism, or the cognitive end of western primatology. While the former studies outline non-Western alternatives to naturalism, the latter suggest "we" were never quite naturalists in the first place. This panel starts from the paradoxical suggestion that Western naturalism itself has consequently become an exotic and unknown anthropological other, at the very heart of our imagined 'self'. We therefore ask contributors to deploy their ethnographic sensitivity in an unexpected and perhaps even uncomfortable direction, and to attempt to 'take seriously' the practices and beliefs which lie at the very heart of western naturalist approaches to non-humans: from self-consciously objectivist biological research, to large-scale farming, from the bastions of Cartesian doubt to the extremes of anthropocentric anthropomorphism. Is western naturalism a mere straw man which collapses under close ethnographic investigation of its purportedly archetypal figures, spaces and practices? Or can the anthropology of human-animal relations take Euroamerican naturalism seriously as an ethnographic object without dissolving either its object or itself? And what new ethical and epistemological possibilities for both collaboration and critique are opened by such an approach?