The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography
S. Eben Kirksey and Stefan Helmreich
Cultural Anthropology 2010
Summary written by – Laurie Denyer Willis –
The term ‘Multi-species ethnography’ represents a new field of anthropology that takes seriously the lives and points of view of other-than-humans, whose lives are caught up in complex relations with human lives, politics, economies and cultures. As Eduardo Kohn writes on “the anthropology of life”, this is a mode of anthropology that exceeds a singular focus on human life, instead concerning itself “with the effects of our entanglements with other kinds of living selves” (2007:4). In this piece by Kirksey and Helmreich (2010) the reader is carefully introduced to these conjoined worlds and invited to consider how culture in the Anthropocene unfolds in our “mutual ecologies and coproduced niches” (546) with a diverse set of living things, be they mushrooms (Tsing 2015), meerkats (Candea 2010) forests (Kohn), marine microbes (Helmreich), plants (Hayden 2003; Archambault 2016), or the microorganisms that enliven our cheese (Paxson).
Much of this work – and more – has been collected at The Multispecies Salon.
Archambault, Julie Soleil. 2016. Taking Love Seriously in Human-Plant Relations in Mozambique: Toward and Anthropology of Affective Encounters. Cultural Anthropology, 31(2):244-271.
Candea, Matei. 2010. “I Fell in Love with Carlos the Meerkat”: Engagement and Detachment in Human-Animal Relations. American Ethnologist, 37(2):241-258.
Hayden, Cori. 2003. When Nature Goes Public: The Making and Unmaking of Bioprospecting in Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Helmreich, Stefan. 2009. Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kohn, Eduardo. 2007. How Dogs Dream: Amazonian Natures and the Politics of Transspecies Engagement. American Ethnologist, 34(1):3-24.
Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Paxson, Heather. 2008. Post Pasteurian Cultures: The microbiopolitics of Raw-Milk Cheese in the United States. Cultural Anthropology, 23(1):15-47.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.View Publication > Share
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