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Methods for Multispecies Anthropology

Thinking with Salmon Otoliths and Scales

Heather Anne Swanson

This article proposes that multispecies anthropology and its curiosities about non-humans constitute a ‘minor anthropology’ that poses challenges not only to anthropological categories, but also to anthropological methods. Through attention to Pacific salmon, I probe why and how anthropologists might explore the ways non-humans know and enact worlds via collaborations with natural scientists. Working with biologists, I examine salmon scales and otoliths, or ear bones, whose crystallization patterns act as a kind of fish diary, recording a fish’s migrations and relations. I take up these methods with an anthropological eye, asking how one might use such practices to learn about multispecies encounters that classical ethnography often misses. Lastly, I demonstrate how anthropologists can engage natural science tools while remaining alert to the politics of knowing.

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Introduction

Minor Traditions, Shizen Equivocations, and Sophisticated Conjunctions

Casper Bruun Jensen and Atsuro Morita

This introduction examines the interrelations between the possible existence of multiple nature-cultures and the indisputable existence of distinct anthropological traditions. After offering some preliminary remarks on the problems with nature-culture, the article offers as an example the complex translations required for the Western idea of nature to gain foothold in Japanese anthropology. Patched together from Western and Chinese notions, Japanese ‘nature’ remains equivocal to this day. This equivocation, however, has also been generative of minor anthropological traditions. As this suggests, the advance of different concepts into new territories holds the potential for shaping ‘sophisticated conjunctions’ in which traditions are mutually modified, allowing new forms of nature and culture emerge.