RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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71 Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (2): (Not) Seeing, Hearing, Showing Non-Humans
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) Michelle Bastian (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Electrical Engineering Building, Room 403a - DO NOT USE 2020
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 (3): Co-producing place with non-humans
Co-production of knowledge with non-humans (4): Who Knows?: relocating participatory knowledges across human/non-human divides
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Rethinking ethnobotany: a methodological reflection for the Anthropocene
Jennifer Atchison (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Lesley Head (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Plants are fundamental players in human lives, underpinning our food supply and contributing to the air we breathe. They are central to pressing sustainability issues such as biodiversity protection, invasive species management and carbon sequestration. Understanding associations and fostering healthy collaborations with plants into the future requires close attention to the distinctive character and capacities of the actors involved. But how should we do this, and how effective are proudly human-centred methods such as ethnography and ethnobotany? It is one thing to recognise that the choice of methods can privilege some human voices over others, and think of ways to deal with this. It is quite another to try and give voice and body to plants themselves. In this paper we reflect on how our doing of ethnobotany has changed across three Australian research projects over the past twenty years: entanglements with yams in the east Kimberley, following wheat in southern New South Wales, and living with weeds across the tropical north. Working from initial experiences in indigenous plant management, we wondered how to approach ethnobotany among people whose relations with a plant (wheat) is via the supermarket and a picture on the cereal packet. And what of those who are trying to kill a plant (invasive rubber vine) from a helicopter? For all our angst, there is no alternative but to start in the middle, and plants soon inserted themselves into our conversations. Plants have the potential to energise our thinking about new ways of living in the world but this requires increased recognition of and ethical engagement with the planty subjects with whom we cohabit.
Media ecologies of landscape and the co-production of photographic knowledge of invasive species
Michael Gallagher (University of Glasgow, UK)
Erin Despard (University of Glasgow, UK)
This paper addresses the co-production of knowledge about landscape via the concept of ‘media ecologies’ (Fuller, 2005) as explored through an experimental writing process. We discuss our research at Kilmahew, a densely overgrown woodland estate subject to invasive species management. The analysis centres on challenges encountered whilst photographically documenting Rhododendron ponticum prior to its removal: obtaining 'correct' exposure, depth of field and shutter speed in a landscape characterised by dark undergrowth, bright skies, strong winds and other unruly forces proved almost impossible. While these difficulties could be construed as merely technical, we suggest they offer insights into the lively interactions between a variety of forces and effects—sunlight, weather, camera technology, the site’s topography and landscape design, processes of ruination, woodland management practices and local community involvement. What we understand about the landscape through photographing it is shaped by the affordances and constraints of these interacting technologies, species and practices. We attempt to make sense of some of these interactions by writing the affordances of Rhododendrons and cameras into conversation with one another using adapted photo-elicitation techniques. In the process, we hope to show how the two together shape what we are able to see—or perhaps, the specific qualities of our not seeing—and therefore what we understand about the landscape and its future possibilities.
Developing non-human perspectives on connectivity in wildlife in conservation
Timothy Hodgetts (University of Oxford, UK)
The aim of this paper is to interrogate the possibilities for developing an account of a non-human perspective on connectivity. Ideas about connectivity are influential in regimes that manage wildlife, yet the concept is marked by its multiplicity. Drawing on insights of more-than-human geographers, I suggest it might be worth investigating non-human perspectives as well. Yet doing so without simply speaking for non-humans is a challenging task. In the paper I propose a thought-experiment: a series of speculations on methodological possibility available to animal geographers. The weave is based on a sustained period of multi-species ethnographic engagement with a pine marten conservation project in Wales. I focus on martens not because they offer a compelling example of how humans might listen, but because on the contrary because they are so infuriatingly hard to hear. There are three stages to the experiment. I begin with contemporary modes of ‘speaking for’, outlining how bio-geographic modelling techniques might be applied to create a particular understanding of landscape permeability for pine martens. I then develop a contrasting mode of ‘listening to’ the movement of martens through ethnographic and ethological techniques. Finally, I develop a tentative synthesis that allows a form of ‘direct questioning’
Showing me showing you: an apprenticeship in ethnographic attention to the more-than-human world
Hannah Pitt (Cardiff University, UK)
The enterprise of ethnographic fieldwork has been characterised as an apprenticeship in which the researcher is inducted into a social world in order to learn its ways (Pink 2009). When the societies we seek to know include nonhumans the researcher must engage with all kinds of beings in order to learn from them (Whatmore 2006). But how to develop the requisite sensory attentiveness to nonhumans (Bennett 2010), and how to communicate this knowledge without privileging those who can speak for themselves? In this paper I propose that the concept of showing can guide the process of learning with communities of human and nonhuman others. I develop Ingold’s proposal that “to show something to somebody is to cause it to be seen or otherwise experienced” (2000: 12) into a methodology for more-than-human geography in which various actors guide the researcher-apprentice. Drawing on fieldwork with communities of human and nonhuman gardeners I suggest multi-sensory techniques for encouraging others to show us their worlds which help guide attention beyond the most obvious social actors. Presenting the resultant knowledge is discussed as a process of showing these worlds to others. I conclude that although 'showing' usefully brings human and nonhuman actions together as more equal knowledge producers, much inevitably remains un-shown both to the researcher-apprentice and their subsequent audiences.