RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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146 Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (4): Who Knows?: relocating participatory knowledges across human/non-human divides
Affiliation History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Participatory Geographies Research Group
Convenor(s) Owain Jones (Bath Spa University, UK)
Emma Roe (University of Southampton, UK)
Michelle Bastian (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
Michael Buser (University of the West of England, UK)
Chair(s) Michael Buser (University of the West of England, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Electrical Engineering Building, Room 403a - DO NOT USE 2017
Session abstract This series of sessions will explore how the co-production of knowledge within (and between) communities is being expanded beyond narrowly human notions of community to take into account the ‘voices’, needs and agencies of non-humans. We seek to explore how co-production has been done (historical examples), is being done, and can be done (imagined futures), with panoplies of non-humans which range through animals, plants, technologies and materials within space-time in both topological and topographical formations. We feel that expanding the processes of knowledge creation through co-production is a necessary step in efforts to address the toxic nature/culture divide and in developing materialist techno-ecologicalisation of politics and ethics (Haraway, Latour, Bennett, Barad etc.). We need deeper engagements with the ecological (taken in its broadest sense), materialised processes which conjure communities into being, sustain them, set them together, apart, in conflict, and bring them down; and in how they might be reformed into more just configurations. We seek contributions which: report upon work that has sought to co-produce knowledge with non-humans; speculate (plan) conceptually and methodologically on how co-productions with non-humans of differing stripe might be done; stage dialogues between specialists in co-production and those specialising in the more-than-human (broadly conceived).
Linked Sessions Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (1): More-than-Human Bodily Entanglements: Boundaries, Interfaces, Knowers
Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (2): (Not) Seeing, Hearing, Showing Non-Humans
Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (3): Co-producing place with non-humans
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Multi-species methods: participatory research and the more-than-human
Michelle Bastian (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
Widespread interest in challenging the traditional divides between humans and non-humans have contributed to a growing push for methods that can work with the distributed knowledges, experiences and values of our multi-species worlds. In response, proposals for the development of etho-ethnology and ethno-ethology (Lestel et al. 2006), multi-species ethnography (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010) and zoömusicology (Taylor 2013), amongst others, have augmented, hybridised and remade methodological repertoires.
Participatory research methods have a long history of grappling with problems around who is understood ‘to know’ within the research process. These methods challenge what kinds of knowledges are seen to be legitimate, while also attending to the problems of producing knowledge within contexts of stubborn inequality. As a result, an engagement with the various debates that have taken place within participatory research appear to offer a rich opportunity for those working with non-human others to reflect on their methodologies in complex and sophisticated ways.
This paper will explore the potential of this approach with reference to a recently completed research project that explored the possibility of developing more-than-human participatory research approaches. Over the course of four workshops, the team used participatory design, participatory action research and ethical frameworks for community-based participatory research to frame their encounters with dogs, bees, trees and water. Discussing some of the affordances and frictions that we experienced in this process, I will draw out some of the consequences of trying to think the ‘more-than-human’ and ‘participatory research’ together. Throughout I pay particular attention to the ways our preconceptions around ‘who knows’ were tested, expanded and confounded by our immersive experiences in more-than-human worlds.
The parasite as more-than-parasitic? Expanding communities through Helminthic Relationships
Skye Naslund (University of Washington, USA)
Traditional biomedical conceptualizations of parasites as parasitic obscure the multi-dimensionality of relationships between host and parasite. While notions of parasitism are inherently relational, biomedical discourse frames this relationality as exclusively unidirectional and exploitative. Recent developments in biomedical science, however, allow for novel understandings of parasites. Clinical trials have begun to demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment with hookworms and whipworms (commonly referred to as helminthic therapy) on autoimmune diseases. The recent acknowledgement within biomedicine, that parasites can potentially play a beneficial role in their relationships with hosts, offers an opportunity to reconsider the parasite. Furthermore, this positioning of parasites opens the door to a more nuanced understanding of parasite-host relationships and the co-production of more-than-human assemblages. Using content and discourse analysis of parasitology textbooks, published results of helminthic therapy trials, and blogs of self-identified helminthic therapy users, I analyze shifting discourses about parasites, particularly hookworm and whipworm. In comparing and contrasting these texts, this work seeks to illuminate not only how perceptions of parasites are changing, but also the realm of possibilities that these shifts make possible. In reconsidering the parasite we engage with marginalized species within our intimate ecologies, thereby allowing for the co-production of embodied knowledge that decenters the human in favor of more-than-human collectivities.
Co-producing knowledge with birds, designing a digital archive in the contact zones of community, conservation and scholarship
Felice Wyndham (University of Oxford, UK)
John Fanshawe (BirdLife International, UK)
Andrew Gosler (University of Oxford, UK)
Heidi Fletcher (University of Oxford, UK)
Ada Grabowska-Zhang (University of Oxford, UK)
Around the world, people commonly identify birds as messengers, augurs, teachers, and beings that have the power to affect one’s life and livelihood. Often these relationships are conceived of as person-to-person interactions, in which the ‘bird-person’ is or used to be human, enabling kinship and power relations and perceived mutual communication. Birds are considered to be especially communicative with respect to ecological change, shifts in weather, and both good and ill future happenings. At the same time, for most Western scientists, birds are considered to have separate, non-human ontologies wherein communication between ‘us and them’ is specialized or indirect, such as that of a trained bird or a predator-warning call.

The first section of our paper reviews these human-bird communication histories in multiple regions and culture groups, with particular illustration of Ayoreo ornithological knowledge in the Paraguayan Chaco. The second section investigates the implications of working at the interstices of multiple knowledge communities. Our group, in developing an Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA), seeks to create a digital repository for all kinds of bird-knowledge that is co-produced by and accessible to conservationists, researchers and local community members world-wide. There is also a sense in which the EWA is co-produced with birds themselves, in the recording and accessing of their vocalizations, visual depictions, and in the cultural knowledge, stories and interdependencies that have flourished between local peoples and birds. We explore the epistemic implications inherent to an online collection such as EWA, in which knowledge is commonly presumed to be parsable, collectible, archivable, translatable and comparable, but in reality often includes relational forms of knowing that are none of the above. In structuring the archive as co-produced in diverse epistemic zones, including those between people and other animals, we design for relational experiences to emerge in the process of interacting with the archive. These include procedures and labels that necessitate dialogue between, for example, Indigenous knowledge-holders and non-Indigenous scholars regarding appropriate use of archived materials; lesson plans that encourage school children to contribute original research by interviewing their elders; and realistic engagement between the interests of local communities, conservation ecologists and birds.
Knowledge coproduced: food security futures and food plant seed banking
Oliver Zanetti (The Open University, UK)
This paper interrogates the practice of seed banking in the light of its status as a coproducer of future food security. The genetic improvement of food crops, whether through conventional breeding or genetic modification, has been broadly regarded as a craft of human ingenuity – a project whose outcome is the work solely of communities of scientists. However, the increasing recognition of the necessity of plant genetic resource conservation through seed banks, and, furthermore, the employment of that banked seed in plant breeding practice, belies this argument. Seed banks may be understood as repositories of plant knowledge and experience; this is found in the traits developed and retained by plants which enabled their survival in a range of environments. Drawing on primary research in the fields of seed banking and plant breeding, this paper interrogates the coproduction of knowledges required in efforts to engender future food security by breeding more productive and more resilient crops. In so doing, it argues that while, on the one hand, the increasingly technical nature of plant breeding rests upon human ingenuity, on the other, by drawing on banked seed as a source of useful traits, the nonhuman knowledges encoded within plant DNA makes those plants coproducing agents of that endeavour.
Session Conclusion: Co-production of knowledge with non-humans
Emma Roe (University of Southampton, UK)
Michelle Bastian (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
Owain Jones (Bath Spa University, UK)
Michael Buser (University of the West of England, UK)
This short conclusion to the one-day session will reflect on the topics explored throughout the day and offer an opportunity for wider discussion about the possibility of co-production with non-humans.