Beyond Anthropomorphism

Attending to and Thinking with Other Species in Multispecies Research

  • Mollie Holmberg Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
Keywords: Multispecies research, ethics, anthropomorphism, politics of citation, octopuses, Vancouver Aquarium

Abstract

Despite the growing richness of multispecies scholarship, questions about anthropomorphism – how to responsibly speak about other species as beings with their own lifeworlds and intentions without anthropomorphizing – continue to haunt multispecies research in Western academic settings. Here I argue that working to attend ethically to more-than-human others as beings with their own lifeworlds and decolonize Western epistemologies as a joint project can help multispecies researchers address the conditions that render charges of anthropomorphism sensible to begin with. I first introduce my study context at the Vancouver Aquarium and positionality as a settler scholar, reflecting on how these come together to generate tensions that shape the meaning of (and possibilities for) ethical multispecies research. I then explain how I have looked to Indigenous intellectuals for guidance before exploring submerged grammars of animacy that linger within the Vancouver Aquarium and Western epistemologies enfolded with this space. I engage Indigenous, feminist, and queer scholarship with more-than-human geographies and octopus science to explain how imagining ethical attention to more-than-human others as beings with their own lifeworlds from this space also entails imagining radically different relations between bodies and spaces than those permitted at the Aquarium.

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Published
2022-03-03
How to Cite
Holmberg, M. (2022). Beyond Anthropomorphism. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(2), 172-187. Retrieved from https://www.acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/2033