Can the more-than-human speak? Other ways of knowing in interspecies communication - #1

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Animal Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group
Organizers: Paul Moss
Chairs: Paul Moss

Call for Submissions

Denying a voice (or even the possibility of a voice) to more-than-human beings inscribes a hierarchical and hegemonic power dynamic that has proven to be destructive and damaging to all involved – leaving the more-than-human silenced, vulnerable, and subject to instrumental exploitation while creating a sense of loneliness, disconnection, and unmooredness in humans. Interspecies communication, even when reported, may be denatured through its being viewed solely as an artifact of metaphor, symbol, or imagination, rather than its being understood and appreciated as a real and authentic phenomenon.

Those exploring purposeful and meaningful communication between humans and plants, animals, fungi, and other beings are typically expected to conduct research using only objective, rational, and scientific techniques (as conventionally defined) without evidencing anthropomorphism. These approaches arguably serve to silence more-than-human interlocutors by proscribing the use of intuition and other ways of knowing their perspectives.

Yet, in alternative worldviews, epistemologies, and cosmologies, including but not limited to those of many indigenous and animist cultures, more-than-human beings do have meaningful voices that can be perceived by humans and which have been valorized, understood, and respected for thousands of years. These voices are starting to be heard within the academy as well.

This session provides an opportunity for researchers to present theoretical, empirical, or experimental scholarly work that leads to greater understanding of more-than-humans and their voices and perspectives through intuition, indigenous ways of knowing, channeling, shamanism, dreams, visions, use of psychotropic substances, and other alternative approaches.

Examples of questions that might be explored in presented papers include:

* How have or might various alternative techniques be used to hear voices and perspectives of the more-than-human?

* To what degree does cultural appropriation need to be considered as a factor in utilizing interspecies communication approaches based in indigenous epistemological systems?

* Can anthropomorphism be legitimately embraced in interspecies communication?

* How can communications from the more-than-human be relayed to a larger non-academic audience while being taken seriously?

* Why is it particularly important in the Anthropocene to listen to the voices of more-than-human beings? Why is this question particularly relevant to the field of geography?

* To what degree is it important or necessary to understand what the mechanisms are for intuitive interspecies communication?

* Is there a limit to the type of organism that can communicate with humans (i.e. microorganisms, fungi, plants, animals)?

* What challenges arise in understanding the capabilities of "non-living" beings such as stones, water, and natural features that also evidence communications with humans?

* What is the history and breadth of philosophical and epistemological discourse that validates communication between humans and more-than-humans?

* To what degree is it the academy's role to investigate and validate the content and reality of these types of communications?

This paper session is planned for the April 6 – 10, 2020 AAG meeting in Denver, CO. It will include three or four 15-minute paper presentations followed by questions and discussion for a total session length of 75 minutes.

The session is sponsored by the following AAG Specialty Groups: Animal Geographies; Cultural & Political Ecology; Ethics, Justice, & Human Rights; Indigenous Peoples

Please send paper proposals to session organizer, Paul Moss, University of Minnesota, at including both an abstract (maximum 250 words) and a short bio (maximum 100 words).



Type Details Minutes
Presenter Alice McSherry*, The University of Auckland Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand, Amba J. Sepie, University of Canterbury Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, Aotearoa New Zealand, Speaking with Earth Kin: Plant Personhood and Healing in the Anthropocene 15
Presenter Walter W Furness*, Texas State University - San Marcos, Attending to the small things: Theorizing yeast-human communicative possibilities 15
Presenter Courtney Berne*, Geography and Urban Studies Department Temple University, Calls to Action within the Anthropocene 15
Discussant Paul Moss University of Minnesota 15

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