Subalterns in the House: Sites for a Postcolonial Multispecies Ethnography
Keywords:postcolonial, subaltern, collective, representation, local, decolonization, multispecies ethnography
Multispecies ethnography attempts to bring to the forefront those animal lives previously overlooked by charting our shared social worlds and showing how humans and nonhumans are mutually affected by social, cultural and political processes. The resistance in postcolonial critique to focus on nonhuman animal subjects stems from making the colonised and the animal comparable and the fear that such an association may dehumanise the human subject. This paper suggests that multispecies ethnography influenced by Latour, Haraway, Tsing and others is a useful tool for analysing postcolonial contexts because of its emphasis on relation, mutuality and alliances. However, I suggest that this inheritance is rebuilt as a postcolonial multispecies ethnography because of its attention to five aspects that is common to both fields: subaltern, local, collective, representation and decolonisation. By a careful reading of these key concepts with examples from contemporary literature, I show how postcolonial multispecies ethnographies engage with hybrid identities that are culturally produced and historically situated and how they register the nonhuman animals as narrativisable subjects who are nevertheless “irretrievably heterogeneous” (284). In this ethnographic emergence, postcolonial multispecies ethnography re-dignifies the nonhuman animal subject which opens up the radical possibility of realizing their embodied perspectives.
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