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Verbalizing the nonverbal in intimate ethnography through diffractive methods

Authors: Andrea Petitt*,
Topics: Animal Geographies, Qualitative Methods, Field Methods
Keywords: ethnography, human-animal relations, methodology
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As we come down the steep slope and cross the creek to get to the herd of cattle, and hopefully the sick calf that I am looking for, I feel how Chess hesitates, suggests to take a different route, but as I insist with my mind and my body, he lunges himself through the water and takes a small jump up on the opposite bank. To what extent does he trust me, and to what extent do I trust him…?
The intimacy of the language we share - me, an ethnographer doing a year of field work on a working cattle ranch in the American West, and Chess, a working cow horse in my care since a couple of months back - is characterized by its embodied nature as well as an interspecies power relation. In this paper, I discuss the detailed methods of feminist multispecies auto/ethnography and explore the methodology beyond the ‘graphy’. Through the critical use of video filming in addition to field notes I de-centre the verbal/ized experience and highlight the multiple aspects of a singular multispecies relationship.
Through a theoretical lens of intra-action and gender-species intersectionality, this paper shows how a diffractive methodology that de-centres anthropocentric rhythms of time and space at the very core of auto/ethnographic data collection contributes to the possibilities to understand and communicate that which is primarily non-verbal and intimate.

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