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Some thoughts on Multispecies Narration

Tricholoma matsutake, insects, snails, thinking forests, and pigeons ( I really don't want to mention pigeons, it scares me) , which at first glance are very different from classical anthropological themes, how do they help us understand the urban environment, technology and technology, and human interaction with nonhuman beings? As a species, what is the wrong and complicated relationship between man and other species, which shapes the process of "why man becomes a human being"? In recent years, anthropologists have been interested in writing ethnographic books of many species, hoping to respond to these questions.

In the face of global environmental changes and the state dominated by life technology in modern society, the advice of multi-species ethnography is: why not start by thinking about the nature of us as social people, politicians, urbanites, or villagers? Individuals are endowed with these specific social initiatives, and this process is often not accomplished by the human species alone. The interaction between many species is omnipresent: for example, anthropologist Cai Yanlin described the Yilan Plain with Isabelle Varbonell, Joelle Chevrier and Anna L. Tsing, while the friendly co-farming of people and snails; Hugh Raffles, brilliantly interprets the interweaving of insects and human life in different historical contexts in Insectopedia. Or Anna Tsing, an anthropologist, in her own book Mushroom at the End of the World, how Tricholoma matsutake is involved in the new state of global capital accumulation, from abandoned humus to the process of intertwining with the lives and labor of collectors, migrates to the other side of the world and becomes a delicacy in Japan. In this book, Tsing reminds us that "human nature, depends on the negotiation between species." These multi-species ethnographies remind us that human beings are constantly in the process of changing with different life forms in this world. Biopolitically, low-end species are often seen as natural resources, or inactive, merely life forms that can be slaughtered (see Agamben's Homo Sacer). These "low-end" life forms in the order of life also remind us that species metaphors between animals and insects often involve our concept of killing: for example, in anti-Semitism, Jews are analogized to lice, so they can be properly destroyed, and the spread of species categories at the level of language and consciousness reflects a deeper relationship between species order and violence.


As Donna J. Haraway asks in When Species Meet: how can we reflect on the close contact between humans and other species in contemporary human life? How can the contact, friction, companionship, or even interdependence of these different species weave a sense of the world and sociality here?

The starting point of Haraway is that human beings are a species that depends on companionship, and it is not only other human beings who are painful and happy in this world, but also companion animals, flowers and plants, or even close material companions like motorcycles. The basic blueprint of our social life, the tolerance and understanding of differences, has always emerged from the encounter with different species, and then has something to do with the political, economic, moral and legal aspects. Our presupposition of the family, for example, today includes non-human members: hairy children, big dogs and fat cats, cold-blooded lizards, and even goldfish or other intimate collectibles. For many people, these different species / substances are already indispensable members of family life. Our partnership with these non-human species, in turn, affects everyone's place in society, good or bad about you and me. Different from human species, so it's not just what we good to think, Haraway is talking about, but at a more basic level, the world we live in, and the attributes of human beings themselves, are essentially becoming with other species. This idea of "becoming with together" has inspired many ethnographic writers. For example, in How Forests Think, Eduardo Kohn brings multi-species ethnography back to the anthropological discussion of the nature of meaning. Quoting the 19th and early 20th century philosopher Charles S. Peirce's thinking on the theory of symbolism and indexicality, Kohn brought to his ethnographic writing of the Amazon forest the meaning framework in which human beings and nature contrast and interact with each other to shape a sense of the world and invoke each other. This ethnographic breakthrough re-examines the importance of the environment to the shaping of the world: for these villagers living in the upper Amazon forest, life means that life already has a common structure with the forest and is closely related to the jaguar. involves the meaning of life and death "world".

However, the encounter between human beings and other species is not as pure and beautiful as the 17th century European romantic natural landscape painting or romantic pastoral poetry. In Pigeon Trouble: Bestiary Biopolitics in a Deindustrialized America, anthropologist Hoon Song deals with the famous annual International Labour Day Pigeon shooting Conference in the post-industrial coal mining town of Hegins,1985 in central Pennsylvania, right next to the Appalachian Mountains. Since World War II, with the decreasing demand for coal in the United States as a whole, it has continued to enter a remote post-industrial town, and the employment population of the coal industry has dropped from 45800 in 1935 to 8500 in 1986. Every September, in the crisp autumn season, the whole town enthusiastically buys and transports thousands of pigeons, but only for the festival of collectively raising guns and openly shooting these birds. Even if no one can say exactly when the festival began, protests from animal protection groups in the 1980s and 1990s intensified various disputes during the pigeon shooting conference and affected the sensitive nerves of the town's collective identity. Such a display of collective violence against animals is also linked to the love and hatred of classes, races, and urban-rural conflicts inside and outside the community, reflecting the conspiracy theory and anger of post-industrial white communities in the United States. The imagination of other animals involves not only how pigeons are classified as food, pets, animals with pests, or beasts within the community; in this age of media and SNG cars running around, the celebration of collective shooting of pigeons, and the substitution of animal order with other political and social opposites on a symbolic level. As a matter of fact, animals are in the same process of defining meaning as human beings, in a series of actions (such as public shooting), interaction (the protest of activists and the intensification of the townspeople), and the ceremonial symbolic transformation (pigeons as the substitute for the elites of New York City).


Therefore, we can say that people's imagination and conceptualization of nature have never been excluded from society: the concept of nature has always been a product of history and society. From a macroscopic point of view, the concept of "nature" and "Nature" in modern society involves the expansion and exploration of European colonialism around the world driven by capital accumulation since the middle of the 17th century, as well as its accompanying colonial plunder and slave trade (see Jason W. Moore's Capitalism in the Web of Life and essay). With these European colonial explorers and settlers, biologists, botanists, entomologists, and zoologists living in America and Australia have collected a large number of specimens from colonies one after another since the 17th century. brought back to Europe, and laid the foundation of modern biology; This knowledge construction of "nature", which is closely related to the process of European colonization, has also helped to create established categories and imaginations related to nature in history, such as "nature = barbarism", "nature = backwardness", "nature = tropics", "nature = resources that can be plundered" and so on. In this reflection on the history of colonization and the concept of nature, the sociologist / geographer Jason W. Moore began to care about the concept of replacing the Anthropocene with Capitalocene in recent years. As a result, multi-species ethnography can help contemporary humanities and sociologists to see how the 50 shadows of capital accumulation transcend the category of human beings, and affect the world ecosystem on which all kinds of life depend on each other on a larger scale.

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