P14
Understanding humans understanding horses: constructed and co-created cultures

Convenors:
Gala Argent (University of Leicester)
Location:
Room 2
Start time:
14 September, 2011 at 9:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel explores whether and to what degree human-horse relationships challenge prevailing narratives about domination, agency, culture and nature—and what those narratives are. The interest is also in whether and how horses might be seen to contribute to human meanings, cultures or sub-cultures.

Long abstract:

The human-horse intersection is varied and multifaceted. Among other human-delineated uses and roles, horses can function as food sources and conscripted workers, where they are objectified as resources; as recreational facilitators or identity markers, where they serve as nodes of contact for human political and cultural hierarchies; as subjectified, impactful others with whom humans develop deep and ongoing connections; and/or as various of these examples simultaneously or consecutively during their lifespans. Horses exist within these complex matrices of interaction as powerful and potentially dangerous beings to whom humans often entrust their lives. With these variabilities in mind, the prevailing academic paradigm of human domination/equine submission might within some contexts be expanded to include more nuanced potentials of the relationship, including such aspects as mutual cooperation, care and agency. In the broadest sense, this panel explores whether and to what degree human-horse relationships challenge prevailing narratives about domination, agency, culture and nature—and what those narratives are. The interest is also in whether and how horses might be seen to contribute to human meanings, cultures or sub-cultures. Defining how to include animals as subjects in anthropological studies remains methodologically and theoretically difficult, not for the least reason that anthropological research which takes non-human agency as a starting point is still rare. Because of this, interdisciplinary contributions are welcomed, particularly where they address approaches to nonhuman animal agency, as are those which address human-horse relationships by including horses as more than absent referents.