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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P307)

Places where and when species meet: human and non-human relationships in a new cultural and natural environment

Location Tower A, Piso 1, Room 103
Date and Start Time 20 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Marjetka Golež Kaučič (Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts) email
Suzana Marjanić (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research ) email
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Short Abstract

This panel will address the issue of the places and spaces in which human and non-human beings can meet as 'subjects' and in which a new ecocriticism of anthropocentrism develops and establishes new roles of non-human subjectivity in culture.

Long Abstract

This panel will address the issue of the places and spaces in which human and non-human beings can meet as 'subjects' and in which a new ecocriticism of anthropocentrism develops and establishes new roles of non-human subjectivity. Can this be found in folklore, material and social folk culture, and literature, or does it involve new cultural and social places recorded by anthropologists? The leading topics of this panel's theoretic discourse may range from human speciesism, through love towards another, and even to 'I am an animal, therefore I am' as a Derridian provocation and transformation of Descartes' 'I think, therefore I am.' The panel should thus use a multidisciplinary approach to determine whether folklore researchers, ethnologists, anthropologists, and others require new theoretical foundations (e.g. animal anthropology, anthrozoology, zoofolklore, ecocriticism, and critical animal studies) to study the animal and human elements in culture, and new ethical and ecological guidelines to study the relationships between the human and other animals and the spaces they both shape. It is completely clear that in the face of the global ecocide it is high time that ethnology / folklore studies / anthropology assumed the instruments of critical animal studies in order to truly become engaged research fields.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The raven in the biblical exegesis, medieval Slavonic literature, and folklore: St. Elijah and the motif of the raven offspring-loather

Authors: Margaret Dimitrova (St. Kliment Ohridski Univ. of Sofia)  email
Adelina Angusheva-Tihanov (The University of Manchester)  email
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Short Abstract

The image of the raven in medieval Slavonic sources are seen in the context of their Byzantine models. The cultural implications of the story of the raven as a bad parent are studied in Greek sermons and in Tsamblak's Homily on Prophet Elijah. The texts are contrasted to Balkan folk legends.

Long Abstract

The paper discusses the image of the raven and the words denoting it in medieval Slavonic sources which reflect Byzantine texts and models. Among the variety of representations of the raven there is a relatively rare motif attested in two Byzantine homilies on Prophet Elijah as well as in a sermon by the Bulgarian 15th-century writer Gregory Tsamblak: in them the raven symbolizes the bad parenting of those who do not take care of their children, unlike God, the father of all, who feeds them. The authors discuss this medieval metaphor in a larger framework of the representations of and attitudes towards the raven in Byzantine literature which became known to the Slavs via translations or transformations of Byzantine literary models. Tsamblak uses the images and the theological argumentation of two Greek sermons but he adds much more vivid details which are at that emotionally charged. The sources of the image of the raven hating its children are sought in Byzantine exegetical literature. Further, the literary images of the raven are juxtaposed to Balkan folklore legends about birds and animals who neglect their babies. This case-study is used to draw more general conclusions about the social and cultural implications of the representations of the birds and human world in legends, sermons, and exegesis.

Animals in folklore and literature: poetical and philosophical aspects

Author: Marjetka Golež Kaučič (Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts)  email
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Short Abstract

Proceeding from the philosophical categories of being and object, or human and animal, the author determines how animals are contextualized according to these categories in Slovenian folklore and in Slovenian and world literature from Burns,Rilke,Coetzee to Kosovel,Detela,Makarovič.

Long Abstract

Various multidisciplinary branches of animal studies developed in twentieth-century scholarship. These ranged from sociological, ethological, anthropological, political, and animal-rights approaches to ecofeminism, deep ecology, and philosophical and legal aspects of the perspective on the human-animal relationship with leading researchers such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Paola Cavalieri, Luc Ferry, Boria Sax, Barbara Noske, Nikola Visković, Steven Best, and others.

Folklore and ethnological studies rarely tackled culture- specific animal themes, although animals are definitely part of cultural tradition - people have varying relationships towards animals, and many ecological, psychological, cultural, and utilitarian aspects are embedded in the manner in which people behave and act towards other species when they come in contact with them. This paper proceeds from recent philosophical discoveries about animals' roles, lives, and existences, and uses these to analyze folklore and literature that includes animal figures, images, and symbols in a wide variety of contexts. It represents an effort to shape a network of animal images and various human-animal relations. Proceeding from the philosophical categories of being and object, or human and animal, the author determines how animals are contextualized according to these categories in Slovenian folklore (songs, narrative and customs) and literature from world authors such as Robert Burns, Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, John M. Coetzee and Slovenians: Srečko Kosovel, Jure Detela in Svetlana Makarovič. The goal of this paper is to unveil the complex relation between living species in the cultural and natural environment and to revise the aspect of humans that seeks to appropriate everything that lives around them.

The awareness of non-human that surrounds us

Author: Giedre Smitiene (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore)  email
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Short Abstract

The presentation has a twofold aim: first to reveal how traditional consciousness treats animals and plants as having awareness, secondly to show a possibility of work on field research data using phenomenological approach.

Long Abstract

Our lived place is more than a given area, or a container for our activities. The lived place is always in process of formation, because it consists of relations among things, plants, animals and human. Self-reception of a human as a part of an ecosystem rather than a human supervising ecosystem drives reflection on involvement of man in his living place.

The presentation uses field research case study about an old Lithuanian woman who is running rural way of life that continues traditional oral culture. The case reveals inter-subjective relationship between the woman and her non-human environment. The plants as well as animals are treated by traditional consciousness as having awareness, and are able to communicate it with human. The both species can remember the past and anticipate the future. Human and non-human are treated as active partners or fellow participants as they all are involved in the same world. Such approach to non-human is supported by Lithuanian folklore, for example, songs that split in two parallel animal's and human's branches, folk believes about capacities of non-human, etc.

The case is treated not as a manifestation of poetic creativity but as depiction of the acknowledgment of the world. This attitude is supported by phenomenology that opens new field of experience. The Husserl's concept Paarung, Merleau-Ponty's concept la chair du monde reveal how we are interconnected like parts of one single intercorporeality.

Animal, female, supernatural, 'demonic': mora - fairy - witch

Author: Suzana Marjanić (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research )  email
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Short Abstract

The humano-animal hybrids and/or mythic creatures selected from Croatian oral legends (e.g. the mora – fairy – witch) are compared with the selected hybrid personages (e.g. the Na'vi) in the fantasy film genre (e.g. James Cameron's 'Avatar') that are directed as a Utopian return to the Eutopian era when animals and Humankind were one.

Long Abstract

In this paper, the connections between animal and supernatural female phenomena (the mora - fairy - witch) in Croatian oral legends would be examined. Namely, certain characteristics of the mora and witches can be defined by the term zoopsychonavigation (navigation of the soul in an animal form), and we can differentiate three types of zoopsychonavigation - zoometempsychosis, zoometamorphosis as well as witches' riding, or flying on astral animal vehicles.

Further, the zoomorphic characteristics of fairy creatures would be considered according to Croatian oral legends. In other words, fairies in the Croatian folk imaginary often have the feet of donkeys, horses or goats (hoofs), thus presenting the iconographic paradox of the fairy's body - the upper part of the body is ornithomorphic (with wings) and the lower half of the body is tellurian (ungulate, with hoofed feet).

These humano-animal hybrids and/or mythic creatures in Croatian oral legends (for example, the mora - fairy - witch), whether in the spiritual (with respect to zoopsychonavigation) or whether in the physical sense (with respect to the animal features, for example, the fairy's animal-like feet) would be compared with selected hybrid personages (the Na'vi, for example) in the fantasy film genre (e.g. James Cameron's 'Avatar') that are directed as a Utopian return to the Eutopian era, when animals and Humankind were one. The film referred to shows the culture of the Na'vi that is based on the profound spiritual connection between all beings or, as Al Gore would say - a matter of the implementation of the concept of 'The Earth in Balance'.

Dialogues with a hippie monkey: mediating trans-specific anthropology and intersubjective primatology

Author: Guilherme José da Silva e Sá (Universidade de Brasília (UnB))  email
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Short Abstract

Based on ethnographic fieldwork with a team of primatologists working in Brazilian Atlantic Forest,this paper focuses on how the image and agency of the primates is dialogically constructed (woolly-spider monkeys known as ‘muriquis') and also analyzes their appropriation by primatological discourse.

Long Abstract

Based on ethnographic fieldwork with a team of primatologists working in a small area of Brazilian Atlantic Forest, this paper engages with some of the classical issues in the anthropology of science, especially the ethnological interest in the relations between humans and non-humans and the cosmological dynamics that shape this collective. The paper focuses on how the image and agency of the primates is dialogically constructed (woolly-spider monkeys known as 'muriquis' or 'mono-carvoeiros') and also analyzes their appropriation by primatological discourse-culture. As well as tracing the relations forming this collective of humans and non-humans, the text maps the variations composed of images, behaviors and transpecific performances. This approach is just possible by taking seriously intersubjective narratives of experiences between humans and non-human beings (specially primates) widely - and ethnographically - recorded by primatologists around the world.

Species trouble: reading Judith Butler's work through posthumanist spectacles

Author: Snjezana Husic (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper will explore the relevance of Judith Butler's model of gender performativity when applied to questions of species identity, human and non-human, with the aim to inquire whether her model can offer a feasible path or some useful insights for posthumanist theory and critical animal studies.

Long Abstract

The paper will explore the relevance of Judith Butler's model of gender performativity when applied to questions of species identity (human and non-human), with the aim to inquire whether her model can offer a feasible path or some useful insights for posthumanist theory and critical animal studies. The inquiry will focus chiefly on Gender Trouble and on translatability of terms, categories and models proposed there: if gender is a work in progress of cultural construction with no unique original to cling to, species as well might not be a naturally given (id)entity; instead, it might be just another performative that purports its own "naturalness", in very much the same way a gender performative does it. From that point of view, Judith Butler's model is compatible with Darwin's idea of species as of a permanently changing and unstable category, and thus it appears to have great potential of translatability into both evolutionary and posthumanist terms. On the other hand, Butler's use of certain categories such as nature/culture dichotomy in the first place, together with her conception of (human) subjectivity, might convey some preconceived contents - unintentional as they may be - which are often overlooked in the critique of her theorizing, and which are hardly consistent with a posthumanist stance. Therefore, the paper will also look into possibilities of creating a space for a non-human subject within Judith Butler's theoretical framework.

Human ecology in literature: images and concepts in Ferreira de Castro's novels

Author: Ana Cristina Carvalho (FCSH / UNL)  email
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Short Abstract

Presentation aims to analyze the influence of the environment in the creativity of Portuguese writer Ferreira de Castro, by drawing an interpretation on how the "Pórticos" to his novels show Portuguese and Brazilian landscapes, and in what extent they reflect Human Ecology concepts and principles.

Long Abstract

As a strongly humanized territory, Portugal has its natural patrimony strictly connected to human activity. Essential expressions of this interdependence were captured and pictured by the high sensitivity of Ferreira de Castro, one of the 20th century's most important and fertile Portuguese writers, author of masterpiece Jungle.

FCSH investigation project The Literary Face of Human Ecology - Relationship Human-being - Environment in Ferreira de Castro's work intends to examine this writers' work as a vehicle of environmental diffusion and as a source of human ecology consciousness, proposing a multidisciplinary approach between environmental sciences, social sciences and literary analysis. In the context of that main project, this particular presentation starts from the initial concept of Human Ecology as an increasing scientific field relating Ecosphere to Socialsphere; it aims to focus a few "Pórticos" - introductory texts of Ferreira de Castro's novels, some of these regarding Brazilian Amazonia and Portuguese natural and humanized areas.

Non-classical, cross-disciplinary and increasingly widespread new Ecocriticism will be used as the principal methodology for analyzing those literary texts - whose contents reveal an enormous influence of local land rhythms, place spirit and environmental practices, strictly linked to human life, pain and well-being.

Contemporary Estonian pupil dog lore

Author: Liisa Vesik (Estonian Literary Museum)  email
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Short Abstract

The presentation analyzes the figure of the (pet) dog through the eyes of contemporary schoolchildren and how it reflects in their personal experience stories.

Long Abstract

The presentation analyzes the figure of the (pet) dog through the eyes of contemporary schoolchildren and how it reflects in their personal experience stories. My source is material from the Estonian school lore collection of 2007 (approximately 17,000 participants).

The presentation analyzes the figure of the (pet) dog through the eyes of contemporary schoolchildren and how it reflects in their personal experience stories. My source is material gathered during the Estonian school lore collection of 2007 (approximately 17,000 participants). We received a broad variety of material on pets, including humorous and dramatic stories. The stories reflect a shift in people's attitudes and values. I will analyze the pet corpus, outline the main motives of the stories and compare them with folklore recorded at the beginning of the 20th century. The paper is connected to research carried out within the project ESF 8137.

Cultural constructs and folklore of bears

Author: Lizanne Henderson (University of Glasgow (Dumfries Campus))  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will explore the cultural constructions, interactions and complex relationships between humans and bears in the Northern Hemisphere. The concentration will be on black, brown and polar bears, and will address both the historical and present-day perceptions, usages and folkloric interactions between humans and bears.

Long Abstract

The folklore and cultural history of bears is long-standing and complex. Bears make a regular appearance in folktales, legends and myths of various northern peoples but such stories can go beyond simple entertainment and be important in revealing something about the part animals play in human society and culture, as well as the human relationship with and understanding of the land. Many cultures have identified behavioural similarities between bears and humans, some even claiming lineal descent from bears and thus forging kinship ties with them. The bear has strong supernatural associations and is an important figure within shamanistic societies and belief structures. Traditions of the bear as shapeshifter or, vice versa, the human who can assume the form of, or adopt the characteristics of a bear, are widespread. The various conceptions and human constructs of the bear can therefore illustrate the relationship and overlaps between the natural and supernatural worlds as perceived by those living in close proximity to bears.

How people connect and relate to their environment, and their perceptions of the natural and the supernatural world, can be indicated through an examination of the various roles and manifestations of bears. Areas to be discussed will include, for instance, the bear as shapeshifters, as a motif in folkloric tradition, legend and folktale, and issues of anthropomorphism. Other topics of human-bear interactions and contact, as in hunting for subsistence or sport, wildlife tourism, as icons and symbols, and the use of bears in advertising, will also be addressed.

When the food pyramid is reversed: the sacred crocodile in Timor Leste. Ethnographic notes on a problem of maritime security

Author: Enrique Alonso (University of Salamanca)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper addresses a question of applied anthropology: the deaths at sea caused by the saltwater crocodiles in Timor Leste. Crocodiles are sacred animals that, following the local cosmology, embody the ancestors.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses a question of applied anthropology: the deaths at sea caused by the saltwater crocodiles in Timor Leste. Crocodiles are sacred animals that, following the local cosmology, embody the ancestors.

Although there is not a formal record of accidents at sea, several times a year, news about deaths of fishers caused by the attacks of saltwater crocodiles are reported in the local level, reaching all those involved in the fishing sector around the country. Meanwhile several international agents face the challenge of the "reduction of the vulnerability" of the local fishing communities, in the case of safety at sea, a deeper issue of cultural mediation and interpretation arises.

In light of the questioning that part of the anthropology has made to our own ontological schemes and through the empirical evidence provided by the study of different societies like the Achuar in the Amazon or others in northern Canada, this poster analyzes the human/nature relations in Timor Leste. Social representations, discourses and practices around the salt water crocodiles are described to discuss the patterns of local causality and the ontological spheres among the fishers of the Southeast Asian island. In light of this, the eurocentric based practices of problematization are adressed and the potential solutions delineated.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.