Interspecies Semiotics and the Specter of Taboo: The Perception and Interpretation of Dogs and Rabies in Bali,Indonesia
The anthropological ﬁelds of ethnobiology and ethnoscience, in their analysis of indigenous environmental knowledge, have largely focused on forms of conceptual knowledge such as biological terms and taxonomic categories. However, their examination of subjects’ environmental knowledge does not explicitly address how subjects relate to their environment through varied cognitive and phenomenal mechanisms. By including other types of knowledge, such as perceptual acuity and interpretive range, differences in indigenous knowledge and the processes that shape such knowledge may be better understood. In this article, I report the results of experiments comparing the abilities of Hindus and Muslims in Bali to discern the differences in dog vocalizations and to diagnose the presence of rabies in dogs. The results highlight the importance of a negative symbolic association, the Muslim taboo on interaction with dogs, which constrains both perceptions of dogs and interpretations of the animal’s behavior.Evidence for signiﬁcant variation in a subject’s perceptions of dog vocalizations provides greater context to prior studies that found a common ability to understand the vocalizations of dogs. Such differences, combined with the restriction of a subject’s interpretative range and depth in analyzing the presence of rabies, illustrate how symbolic systems can induce a form of what psychologists refer to as “perceptual narrowing.
Real People, Real Dogs, and Pigs for the Ancestors: The Moral Universe of “Domestication” in Indigenous Taiwan
Humans and other animals often engage in multispecies relations that go beyond classical deﬁnitions of “domestication,” not least because there are political dimensions to those relations. External interference with human–animal relationships has notably been part of indigenous experiences of colonialism and postcolonialism. I examine here changes in the triangular relationship between humans, dogs, and pigs among the indigenous Seejiq Truku of Taiwan. Dogs, as hunting companions, are traditionally associated with men’s work; pigs, used in ancestral sacriﬁces, are aligned with women’s work. Pigs are mediators with the spirit world, as ancestor spirits respond to regular pig sacriﬁces by providing prey to hunters. Dogs are important as hunting companions that make it possible to catch boars and other animals. These human–animal relations have undergone change because of the integration of the Seejiq into new markets, the state, and legal regulations about both hunting and the keeping of animals.Human–animal relations also articulate with dynamics of gender and class in a changing political economy. The Seejiq frame their intrahuman and interspecies relations in terms of Gaya, their sacred ancestral law. By afﬁrming the value of their particular type of multispecies community, the Seejiq demonstrate resilience and a strong defense of sovereignty.
Herding Species: Biosecurity, Posthuman Labor, and the American Industrial Pig.
This article examines microbial ecologies and industrial ontologies as they unfold in the animal worlds created by the American factory farm. Based in a hundred-mile radius region of the U.S. Great Plains—where some seven million hogs are annually manufactured from prelife to postdeath—it unpacks agribusiness managers’ varied modes of socio-ecological intervention once porcine overproduction causes disease to breach the indoor spaces of confinement barns. Maintaining the genetic potency of modern industrial animals requires managers to appraise how the pig has become intertwined with wind patterns, terrain gradations, and humanity. One result is that corporations are enacting intimate biosecurity protocols in workers’ domestic homes, a move that frames human sociality as a reservoir sheltering porcine disease. Workers are reimagined as a threat to the vitality of industrial hogs in ways that subtly alter the value of human livelihood and autonomy in this region. To situate how rural work became ambiguously posthuman, this essay develops a political economy of speciation. It inhabits managers’ abstract technologies that allow them to become attuned to the industrial pig as a fragile and world-defining species in need of new types of laboring subjectivity, while analyzing the postanthropocentric politics of class and value in a zone reorganized around forms of capitalist animality.
The Pastoral Effect: Niche Construction, Domestic Animals, and the Spread of Farming in Europe.
Sarah B. McClure
Niche construction theory provides a framework to analyze the environmental effects of changing pastoral practices. In Europe, domesticated herd animals facilitated the expansion of farming by extending the spatial framework of early farming communities, produced milk for caloric security of pioneering farmers, and were partners in coevolutionary relationships that resulted in changes in the human genome and the spread of diseases. Domestic herd animal management practices, however, were not uniform during the Neolithic, and variations in livestock management, use, and environment affected the degree of extensive and intensive human niche construction among early farmers. This paper explores the biological and cultural effects of pastoralism for the establishment of new agricultural niches by examining biological and ecological underpinnings of both domesticated animals and their management strategies. It is suggested that strategies varied in their niche outcomes and ecological legacies, highlighting the roles domestic herd animals played as mechanisms of niche construction for the spread of agriculture. These pastoral effects had implications for the environmental legacies experienced by subsequent human generations, and results provide a fresh avenue of investigation for researchers working on the ecologies of agropastoral societies through time and space.
Dog Waste, Wasted Dogs: The Contribution of Human–Dog Relations to the Political Ecology of Australian Urban Space
Lesley Instone & Jill Sweeney
The city is increasingly recognised as a complex more-than-human space where the lives of humans and non-humans entwine in consequential ways. Human–animal encounters constitute sometimes convivial and sometimes challenging relations that reflect wider pleasures and tensions in urban society. This paper grapples with concerns about the place of dogs in Australian urban public space and urban life more broadly. Adopting a relational political ecology approach, we ask what pet dogs tell us about the political, emotional, and material struggles that surround multispecies urban cohabitation. Following two human–dog urban waste streams – one concerned with dog waste, the other with dogs as waste – we consider how human–animal relations of both attachment and disposability shape the material flows that constitute urban political ecologies. In particular, by focusing on the ‘shadow ecologies’ of dog waste and disposal, we uncover the dynamic practices of care, disgust, violence, and love through which dogs, their waste, and their bodies are sanitised, controlled, and ultimately concealed from our everyday urban spaces.
Social Studies of Science
Abyssal intimacies and temporalities of care: How (not) to care about deformed leaf bugs in the aftermath of Chernobyl
Prompted by a classroom discussion on knowledge politics in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, this article offers a reading of Hugh Raffles’ Insectopedia entry on Chernobyl. In that entry, Raffles describes how Swiss science-artist and environmental activist Cornelia Hesse-Honegger collects, studies, and paints morphologically deformed leaf bugs that she finds in the proximity of nuclear power plants. In exploring how to begin to care about beings, such as leaf bugs, this article proposes a notion of care that combines an intimate knowledge practice with an ethical relationship to more-than-human others. Jacques Derrida’s notion of ‘abyssal intimacy’ is central to such a combination. Hesse-Honegger’s research practices enact and her paintings depict an ‘abyssal intimacy’ that deconstructs the oppositions between concerns about human suffering and compassion for seemingly irrelevant insects and between knowledge politics and ethics. At the heart of such a careful knowledge production is a fundamental passivity, based on a shared vulnerability. An abyssal intimacy is not something we ought to recognize; rather, it issues from particular practices of care that do not identify their subjects of care in advance. Caring or becoming affected thus entails the dissociation of affection not only from the humanist subject, but also from movements in time: from direct helping action and from the assumption that advocacy necessarily means speaking for an other, usually assumed to be inferior.
A Day at the Beach: Rising Sea Levels, Horseshoe Crabs, and Traffic Jams
Lisa Jean Moore
The North American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) spawns on Plumb Beach, a New York City and National Park Service park that borders the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. This sociological research article examines my experiences of joining a biological research team studying the reproductive practices of horseshoe crabs at different shoreline habitats. This article tracks how engaging in multispecies ethnography and intraspecies mindfulness changes my everyday life considerations as a human, sociologist, commuter and resident of New York City. Using contemporary social theories, I demonstrate the crabs, humans, cars, sand, eggs, water, wind live in a mesh with connections to ecologists, politicians, pharmaceutical companies, and geomorphology. I am sharing a revelatory moment of understanding my place as a researcher within the mesh, interconnected with the site of research, the objects of research, as well as global variables that are beyond human control (and possibly understanding).