(P19) The animal “other”: encounters with non-human animals in the past and the present
Convenors: Anna Fagan, The University of Melbourne; Ran Barkai, Tel-Aviv University
Discussants: Paul Tacon, Griffith University; Anna Fagan, The University of Melbourne; Ran Barkai, Tel-Aviv University
Abstract: The commodification and estrangement of animals that underpins Western environmental relations has seriously impacted how we conceive of non-human agency, interspecies relations, and ecological concerns. Our session seeks to move beyond anthropocentrism, functionalism, and representationalism to build more critical understandings of animal others and the complex ways in which they co-shape worlds.
The utilitarian conception and taxonomic separation of animals inherent in Western philosophy and archaeological theory has seriously impacted how we conceive of non-human agency, interspecies relations, and political and ecological concerns. Indeed, the commodification and estrangement of animals that underpins current Western environmental relations is but a recent and culturally contingent phenomenon, derived from prevailing economic changes that originated in early modern Europe. However, coinciding with the understandings of indigenous peoples from across the globe, recent theoretical perspectives in the social sciences have interrogated the Euro-modern divide between nature and culture and the objectification of non-humans. Many indigenous peoples consider animals as potentially persons with sentience and intentionality and continue to fight for their political recognition. Scholastic conceptual developments and indigenous social movements demonstrate that taking other systems of knowledge on equal intellectual terms is not only a matter of political exigency, but also constitutes a more inclusive, reflexive, and critical anthropology and archaeology. Thus, it is the aim of this session to move beyond anthropocentrism, functionalism, subsistence, and representationalist logic to explore multi-species engagements and the complex and nuanced ways in which animals co-shape past and present worlds. In the fields of anthropology and archaeology, we want to reconsider animal hunting, consumption, deposition, treatment, and production. This might involve but is not limited to: the use of animal skins and artefacts to gain their perspectives or harness their effective action; their depiction in iconography along with images of hybridity, transformation, and animal perception; the potentially existentially risky practices of hunting; and their presence in architecture and burial contexts. Through critical analysis of interspecies relations, engagements, and non-human points-of-view, we hope to build open-ended understandings of animal others. We welcome presentations by indigenous speakers, anthropologists and archaeologists, as well as anyone else with an interesting take.
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