Familiarity and Contempt in Human/Animal Ethnography

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paperpeer-review


Post-humanism and the 'ontological turn' have directed attention towards the asymmetrical manner in which human interests govern the representation of animals, and indeed other actants and hybrids material or otherwise. While it is hard to deny that humanism has dominated ethnographic interpretations it is not always clear why what is familiar breeds contempt. This paper defends the metaphors of primacy, intimacy, and respect often attributed to hunter-gather accounts about their social worlds. It acknowledges that hunter-gatherer
studies has produced a rather poor cannon of animal experience. Taking examples from around the circumpolar North, the paper tries to understand the relative lack of attention to the role of certain primary key social actors (Rangifer, Ursus, Canis) in classic ethnographies and wonders what an ethnography of the 'hunted and gathered' or 'domesticated' might look like.
While their relationships with human and human-environmental hybrids are undoubtedly meshed, entangled and messy, it is not clear that squashing the profile of the human allows a better understanding Northern social interactions generally. It rather creates a lonely landscape where any experience is unknowable, unfamiliar, and therefore much more easily commodified
and alieniated. By working through metaphors of the familiar, emplacement, and of 'being at home', the paper argues that ethnography can more productively engage with the human, nonhuman, and all that is in between. To do so means that the author/ethnographer/field worker should be sceptical of neo-liberal symmetries
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2015
Event11th Conference on Hunting and Gathering societies CHAGS - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 7 Sept 201511 Sept 2015


Conference11th Conference on Hunting and Gathering societies CHAGS


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