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(P20) Handle with care: humans and their interactions with animals

Wednesday 25th July, 2:40 – 4:10 PM. Room: SK202

Convenor: Maja Pasaric, University College Dublin

Various actions of care are embedded in our daily experiences, reflecting and informing the ways in which we perceive the world and interact with others. Considerations of care in human-animal interactions are a rather understudied aspect of animal-human relationships in both past and present hunting and gathering communities. Care can be manifest through a range of different performative and bodily actions, such as the use of touch, voice, gesture, etc (Hamington, 2004). However, care can prove itself as ambiguous, messy and visceral. In some contexts it stands in close interaction with aspects of control that can lead to harsh treatment of the animals involved. Do hunter-gatherers care for animals because they rely upon them for survival, working companionship, so that they can implement various ritual practices or they do so for the simple joy of living in the co-presence of another living species as in the case of pets? How can care manifest in ways animals are treated in life and death? What notions of care pertain to hunted animals, could they in some contexts be seen in the light of major contemporary ecological and environmental concerns as well? What aspects of care does co-life with animals in hunter-gatherers' settlements require? On the other hand, can animals care for humans as well and in what ways?

This session invites contributions exploring different aspects of care in hunter-gatherers’ interactions with animals recognized through ritual practices, everyday embodied activities, material culture, belief narratives and other cultural practices. For example, contributions from anthropology, archaeology, ethnology and other fields willing to investigate these and similar aspects of care in human-animal relationships are welcome.


2:40 – 2:43 PM. Introduction


2:43 – 2:55 PM. Interactions of care and control: human-animal relationships in hunter-gatherer communities in near-contemporary eastern Siberia and the Mesolithic of North-West Europe

Maja Pasaric and Graeme Warren, University College Dublin

This contribution explores human-animal relations in the Mesolithic of NW Europe and near-recent hunter-gatherer communities of East Siberia. Contexts of hunter-gatherers’ interactions with animals implicate relations where notions of care and control are tight-ly bound.

Long abstract: This contribution explores modes of human-animal interactions in hunter-gatherer communities in near-contemporary eastern Siberia and the Mesolithic of North-West Europe. Archaeological interpretations often propose simplistic views about the ways animals might have been perceived in the Mesolithic; suggesting that animals are seen as different kinds of persons in the Mesolithic, as opposed to them be-ing perceived as things in the later Neolithic period. By discussing notions of care and control, and drawing on syntheses of Russian-language ethnographic data from eastern Siberia, this paper explores the diversity and nuances of hunter-gatherers’ interactions with animals and challenges these models. While some contexts may reveal respectful yet diverse treatments of the hunted animals others suggest that hunter-gatherers also might have interacted with animals kept as pets, captives or companions thus implicat-ing relations in which notions of care and control seem to be tightly bound.


2:55 – 3:10 PM. Bear-hunting, marriage and dangerous things

Andrey Filchenko, Nazarbayev University

Eastern Khanty agent-demoting constructions illustrate conventionalized cultural practice of signaling shifts in agent’s control and volition. Frequent contexts for these constructions involve bear-tabu practices, special care for bears. This cultural pressures in turn, motivate speakers’ choice of linguistic form, to background/conceal agency.

Long abstract: The presentation takes a linguistic-anthropological approach exploring how language system reflects prominent aspects of traditional culture of Siberian hunter-gatherers, Eastern Khanty. Particularly, in search for functional explanation of a particular linguistic phenomenon, the so-called agent-demoting construction of the kind ‘In my presence, a bear got himself killed’, I show that knowledge of the special relationship between human and bear, the prominent local cultural agent, can be espe-cially enlightening. Analysing the contexts of use of these constructions (signifying shifts in participants’ control and volition) against the background knowledge of the complex relationship between Khanty hunter-gatherers and bears, I am demonstrating that the functioning (and origin?) of this piece of grammar is conditioned by aspects of tradi-tional culture, the bear tabu. This very prominent aspect of Khanty culture regulates (and describes) how bear is treated in life and death: venerated and feared as an equal or even superior in the sacred landscape, but also hunted and feasted over in the profane forest world, bear in life and death requires special care. Thus speaker’s linguistic choice to conceal agency in representing situations involving bear is culturally conditioned, manifesting conventionalization in the language system of salient aspects of Eastern Khanty culture.


3:10 – 3:25 PM. Wild pets of the Algonquian Subarctic: predation, exchange, and sentiment

Robert Brightman, Reed College

Algonquian texts confirm the ontological significance in animist societies of tamed wild pets as incorporated “others” (like prey or affines) and as human-animal mediators. They equally exemplify aesthetic pleasure de-rived from quotidian animal companionship.

Long abstract: Cases of boreal forest Algonquian pet ownership of bear and caribou allow appraisal of theories addressing cognate practices in Amazonia. Pets are tamed juveniles of diverse species, individually owned and named, exempt from killing and consumption, and differen-tiated from domesticated working animals. Existing neostructuralist writing foregrounds the particular significance wild pets acquire in ani-mist hunting societies. Algonquian cases confirm pets’ character as fig-ures of alterity (like prey or affines) upon whose “predatory” incorpora-tion reproduction of bodies, subjects, and societies depends. Pets also mediate exchange relations with wild conspecifics and their proprietary spirits, objectifying dialectical relations between co-existing positive and negative social schemata. There exist no parallels to Amazonian and Si-berian uses of tamed pets as sacrificial victims. Ontological approaches neglect but are in no way incompatible with an experiential and sym-metrical perspective on emotion and affect in owner-pet relations. Al-gonquians find convivial pleasure in animal companionship, and recipro-cal affection is common. As with human associates in the past, aban-donment might occur in contexts where pets limited mobility. Accounts of taming practices in other hunting societies afford comparative per-spective.


3:25 – 3:40 PM. The Inupiat whalers’ interactions with bowhead whales in Northwest Alaska, USA—in absentia

Nobuhiro Kishigami, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan

This presentation concerns the Inupiat Whalers’ Interactions with Bowhead Whales in Northwest Alaska, USA. It describes the contemporary taboos and cultural practices of the Inupiat whale hunts, and then examines historical changes in them.

Long abstract: The Inupiat of Northwest Alaska, USA, have been active bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) hunters for approximately the last 1000 years. For the Inupiat in the past the bowhead whale was a staple food, and it is still symbolically an important food for them. The Inupiat have established distinct social relationships with the whales, based on a belief that they give themselves to the Inupiat. Thus, it is very important for the Inupiat whalers to keep harmonious relationships with the whales, to succeed in catching them. They still maintain several taboos and cultural practices to care for the whales. In this presentation, I describe the contemporary taboos and cultural practices, and then examine historical changes in them from the early 20th to the early 21st centu-ries. I argue that although the number of the taboos and cultural practices has decreased drastically, the central idea underlying the Inupiat whalers’ relationships with bowhead whales is still alive in their daily life and whaling activities.


3:40 – 3:55 PM. Caring dogs for hunting among the Baka hunter-gatherers of south-eastern Cameroon


Takanori Oishi, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; Moise Mvetumbo, University of Yaoundé I, Cameroon; Evariste Fongnzossie, University of Douala

This paper describes and analyses how the Baka hunter-gatherer of southeastern Came-roon perceive and take care of their dogs in their daily life both in forest and in settlement.

Long abstract: This paper describes and analyses how the Baka hunter-gatherer of southeastern Cameroon perceive and take care of their dogs in their daily life both in forest and in settlement. Ethnographical data (naming, ownership, hunting and other uses, diet, and ethnopharmacological knowledge) have been collected by authors be-tween 2015 and 2017 from Baka hunter-gatherers based on participatory observation, ethnobotanical survey and interviews. People’s relation to dog were also investigated among adjacent Bantu farmers and city dwellers for comparison. Whereas there are fe-male dog owners in small number, majority of dog owners are male among the Baka. Baka hunters use a variety of “dog medicine (ma mbolo)” to control their dog’s ability of physical performance and emotional status, for example to become jɛnɛ (aggressive and courageous against game animals). When dog is small, owner try to establish dog’s emo-tional attachment to himself/ herself using behavioral techniques. Baka’s relation to dog seem dichotomous between forest and village environment: whereas people treat dogs as partner of hunting and gathering in forest, people tend to treat dogs violently as food thieves at settlement. From developmental view, Baka dog owners are training their dogs so that they can co-live better in the both environments.


3:45 – 4:10 PM. Discussion

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