Researching human-animal relations: from classic to multi-species ethnography
Orit Hirsch-Matsioulas (Haifa University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper deals with the 'posthuman turn' and its methodological outcome, the multi-species ethnography. Focusing on ethnographic fieldwork on human-dog interactions in a Greek island, the paper will reflect on different anthropological methodologies used in the research.
Paper long abstract:
A dog is pacing in the street, behind the dog walks a man and between them a leash is stretched, connecting the human and the non-human into one shared unit. The Classic science of 'man' focuses on one end of the leash, investigating the human subject; Zoologists trace the other end of the leash, studying about dog's movements; the 'posthuman turn' challenges this dichotomy and enables to extend the anthropological research lens, by employing multi-species ethnography. This ethnography evokes new methodological questions, like: which data collection methods can be used in order to carry out this study? How visual anthropology technics can add to the findings on the animal's effect on humans' lives? Does anthropology, as zoology, provides researchers with tools to understand the animal's point of view? And is it the anthropologist's aim to reveal the animal's feelings and thoughts? Based on my ethnographic fieldwork on human-dog interactions in a Greek island, I will reflect on different anthropological methodologies that were used. For example, I collected symbolic interpretations of dogs in the local media and recorded anthropomorphic descriptions of dogs that were brought up in interviews. However, tracing material interactions between different species demanded other methods as well. Hence, in a case of human caring for new born puppies, I documented sounds and sights of mutual modifications and non-verbal interactions. By focusing on methodological issues, i wish to set down conceptual infrastructures, as well as to add to the epistemological discussion in Anthropology on the 'post-human turn'.
The post human: what is it good for? Anthropological perspectives