THE EMERGENCE OF MULTISPECIES ETHNOGRAPHY:

S. EBEN KIRKSEY
STEFAN HELMREICH

ABSTRACT

Anthropologists have been committed, at least since Franz Boas, to investigating relationships between nature and culture. At the dawn of the 21st century, this enduring interest was inflected with some new twists. An emergent cohort of "multispecies ethnographers" began to place a fresh emphasis on the subjectivity and agency of organisms whose lives are entangled with humans. Multispecies ethnography emerged at the intersection of three interdisciplinary strands of inquiry: environmental studies, science and technology studies (STS), and animal studies. Departing from classically ethnobiological subjects, useful plants and charismatic animals, multispecies ethnographers also brought understudied organisms—such as insects, fungi, and microbes—into anthropological conversations. Anthropologists gathered together at the Multispecies Salon, an art exhibit, where the boundaries of an emerging interdiscipline were probed amidst a collection of living organisms, artifacts from the biological sciences, and surprising biopolitical interventions.