We Need to Talk About the Dog! Explorations of Human–Canine Relations and Community Hybridity in Bolivia

Maggie Bolton* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Scholarship on the Andes region has not been prominent in the “animal turn” in anthropology or multispecies ethnography. The studies to date of Andean human–animal relations largely focus on camelid herding. This article addresses a gap in the literature through an ethnographic study of human–dog dynamics in a llama-herding community in southern Bolivia and a historical overview of the presence of dogs in Andean society. I follow Dominique Lestel's call to study hybrid communities through ethno-ethology and etho-ethnology. Approaching Andean dogs from a multispecies perspective reveals the entanglement of humans and dogs: how humans and dogs “become together,” in Donna Haraway's terminology, in joint activities, particularly travel, in which dogs are essential workmates of humans. However, an ontological examination of the status of canines reveals their ambiguities. They are outsiders to the enmeshment of entities that comprise the ayllu—the unit of human social organization of the Andes that is inseparable from place and encompasses features of the landscape as well as humans. Outsiders, such as in-laws, are important to the ayllu for its definition and continuity and, in this respect, dogs are attributed a specific role as guides for human souls on their journeys to the next world. The examination of historical materials reinforces the ambiguities surrounding canines, revealing dog to be an aggregate resulting from colonial encounters. [companion species, human–animal relations, hybrid communities, ontological turn, multispecies ethnography].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-47
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Issue number1
Early online date21 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information
Economic and Social Research Council. Grant Number: RES‐000‐27‐0026


  • companion species
  • human-animal relations
  • hybrid communities
  • multispecies ethnography
  • ontological turn


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