Multispecies Ethnography





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Created date

August 8, 2018

Critical Commentary

From the Oxford Dictionaries entry on "Multispecies Ethnography" written by Piers Locke and Ursula Munster:

Multispecies ethnography is a rubric for a more-than-human approach to ethnographic research and writing rapidly gaining discursive traction in anthropology and cognate fields. The term is deployed for work that acknowledges the interconnectedness and inseparability of humans and other life forms, and thus seeks to extend ethnography beyond the solely human realm. Multispecies investigations of social and cultural phenomena are attentive to the agency of other-than-human species, whether they are plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, or even viruses, which confound the species concept. This entails a challenge to the humanist epistemology upon which conventional ethnography is predicated, specifically its ontological distinctions between nature and culture, human and nonhuman, subject and object. Multispecies ethnography must thus be seen as a part of a larger quest in the social sciences and humanities to replace dualist ontologies by relational perspectives, to overcome anthropocentrism by pointing to the meaningful agency of nonhuman others, and to highlight the intersections between ecological relations, political economy, and cultural representations. Multispecies ethnography however, not only acknowledges that humans dwell in a world necessarily comprising other life forms but also contends that their entanglements with human lives, landscapes, and technologies must be theoretically integrated into any account of existence. 

Locke, Piers, and Ursula Munster. Multispecies ethnography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.


Photo taken by Alli Morgan and Hined Rafeh

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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