The Tao of Multispecies Ethnography

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Bringing together different perspectives is at the heart of multispecies ethnography, but this approach is not new to indigenous people. Indigenous people are already talking to ornithologists. I am personally inspired by the collaboration between biologists and indigenous people that I encountered once while taking Truku people to visit the Mi’kmaq community of Eskasoni in Nova Scotia. There, Elder Albert Marshall, who collaborates closely with biologist Cheryl Bartlett, teaches about the importance of Etuaptmumk, or “two-eyed seeing” (Marshall 2017). His idea is that indigenous and western ways of knowing can be combined to create new insights. This is akin to Bateson’s “binocular vision” about how even people of two different species can see and learn together. Maybe we can move beyond two-eyed seeing and develop multiple eyes like that of flies by also adding the knowledge of Chinese philosophers and the perspectives of the animals themselves. After all the elders teach us that, in a very real way, all of these people, including animal people, are related. Acknowledging that changes everything.

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January 13, 2021 - 2:53am

Critical Commentary

Simon discusses how being in place allows for perspectival knowledge to be gained for Truku hunters, notably in interpreting the sisil, a bird of this region. It discusses the problem of knowing the worlds of other humans and non-humans through learning the patterns of these beings in a particular place.