34. Multispecies ethnography: discussing methods, results, and interdisciplinary knowledge

Several important pieces of work have engaged multispecies studies to carry forward both
research and politics around the roles and connections amongst species and the importance of these connections for their (mutual) care (Haraway, 2013; Kohn, 2013; Tsing, 2015; Despret and Meuret, 2016; Hartigan Jr, 2019; Mondémé, 2019, 2021). Multispecies studies can be described as an effort to decentralize the human subject in our narratives by recognizing other living species’ place in the development of our own. Multispecies as a grouping theme has been discussed, notably around the work of Eduardo Kohn (Lloyd, 2014; Tsing 2018), and has now been the focus of several thematic issues in different journals (Kirksey and Helmreich, 2010; van Dooren, Kirksey and Münster, 2016; Fijn and Kavesh, 2021).
Some of these works asked more precisely about the methods for performing such
ethnographies. They suggested going more into methods as the point of convergence of both research and politics, sometimes suggesting the potential adoption and/or diversion of tools and sensibilities from different (natural sciences) disciplines (Tsing, 2013; Swanson, 2017), but generally with differing perspectives on the kind of results deemed significant in a multispecies perspective. This open panel aims to pursue these lines of thought about methods and their results and follow how multispecies ethnographies might engage different disciplines, tools, and people in fruitful dialogues along their ways.

Multispecies studies raise important questions about how ethnographers can give voice to other- than-humans, and how they can follow others when they do so (sometimes with attention to the roles anthropomorphism plays during connections and transcriptions Marpot, 2014; Myers, 2015; Servais, 2016). These questions show up in how they observe, collect and register “data” and the tools and techniques they use for doing so, or while they draft and polish descriptions (Lien and Pálsson, 2021), annotate pictures, transcribe videos, or draw diagrams and sketches (Gan, 2021). These steps (and others) can lead to asking: what can be done to show how humans and other species are interrelated and how can we follow whom/what enters or exits the “other species” category? But also, what relations can be established with other (environmental) disciplines and methods to do so? What tools, techniques, and methods can be borrowed that might give us insights into other species’ lives? What points of convergence, divergence, frictions, and reunions might appear in these circulations, and how to account for these? Methodological discussions grounded in fieldwork experiences about what can be recovered with different (collection and analysis) methods are our primary goal for this session, which can be of interest to different disciplinary directions going from environmental studies to biology, ethnobiology, and ethnobotany.

Keywords: multispecies; vegetal; animal; other-than-human; observation and analysis

Despret, V. and Meuret, M. (2016) Composer avec les moutons : Lorsque des brebis apprennent
à leurs bergers à leur apprendre. Avignon: Cardère.

van Dooren, T., Kirksey, E. and Münster, U. (2016) ‘Multispecies Studies: Cultivating Arts of
Attentiveness’, Environmental Humanities, 8(1), pp. 1–23. doi:10.1215/22011919-3527695.

Fijn, N. and Kavesh, M.A. (2021) ‘A sensory approach for multispecies anthropology’, The
Australian Journal of Anthropology, 32(S1), pp. 6–22. doi:10.1111/taja.12379.

Gan, E. (2021) ‘Diagrams: Making Multispecies Temporalities Visible’.

Haraway, D.J. (2013) When Species Meet. U of Minnesota Press.

Hartigan Jr, J. (2019) ‘Plants as ethnographic subjects’, Anthropology Today, 35(2), pp. 1–2.

Kirksey, S.E. and Helmreich, S. (2010) ‘The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography’,
Cultural Anthropology, 25(4), pp. 545–576. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1360.2010.01069.x.

Kohn, E. (2013) How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley:
U. of California Press.

Lien, M.E. and Pálsson, G. (2021) ‘Ethnography Beyond the Human: The “Other-than-
Human” in Ethnographic Work’, Ethnos, 86(1), pp. 1–20. doi:10.1080/00141844.2019.1628796.

Lloyd, G.E.R. (2014) ‘On the very possibility of mutual intelligibility’, HAU: Journal of
Ethnographic Theory, 4(2), pp. 221–235. doi:10.14318/hau4.2.010.

Marpot, S. (2014). ‘Tête-à-tête avec un androïde. Production des corps et troubles ontologiques
dans une expérience d’interaction hommes-robot’. Parcours anthropologiques, 9, pp. 53-72.
doi : 10.4000/pa.325

Mondémé, C. (2019) La socialité interspécifique: une analyse multimodale des interactions
homme – chien. Limoges: Lambert-Lucas.

Mondémé, C. (2021) ‘Why study turn-taking sequences in interspecies interactions?’, Journal
for the Theory of Social Behaviour, p. jtsb.12295. doi:10.1111/jtsb.12295.

Myers, N. (2015) ‘Conversations on Plant Sensing : Notes From the Field’, NatureCulture,
3(03), pp. 35–66. doi:10.18910/75519.

Servais, V. (dir.) (2016). La Science Humaine Des Chiens. Lormont : Le bord de l’eau.

Swanson, H.A. (2017) ‘Methods for Multispecies Anthropology: Thinking with Salmon
Otoliths and Scales’, Social Analysis, 61(2), pp. 81–99. doi:10.3167/sa.2017.610206.

Tsing, A.L. (2013) ‘More-than-Human Sociality: A Call for Critical Description’, in Hastrup,
K. (ed.) Anthropology and Nature. Routledge, pp. 37–52. doi:10.4324/9780203795361-8.

Tsing, A.L. (2015) The Mushroom at the End of the World – On the Possibility of Life in
Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Tsing, A.L. (2018) ‘A multispecies ontological turn?’, in Omura, K. et al. (eds) The World
Multiple. Routledge, pp. 233–247. doi:10.4324/9780429456725-15.

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