Hannah Chazin, Anthropology, University of Chicago

“Determining what? Thoughts on pastoralism as a beastly problem in anthropology and beyond”

Hybrid helmo












Pastoralism, generally, has been regarded as a ‘problem’ in classical Western political thought and in evolutionary narratives of political complexity. This paper suggests that these problems can be re-conceptualized as reflecting a discomfort with or rejection of the necessary hybridity of the herd, which encompasses both humans and animals. The beastly figures of the herd are doubly unruly. First, their capacities for directed action trouble any simple division between subject and object. Animals’ uneasy status as quasi-subjects (or quasi-objects) fuels debate about the meaning and nature of domestication. Second, while ‘nature versus nurture’ establishes the animal as a ‘determined’ entity to which the human is or is not reducible, any serious engagement with herd animals threatens to undermine animals’ function as the limit case for arguments about determinism (either genetic or environmental). In this workshop, I explore how pastoralists and their herds are viewed through a variety of determinist lenses in anthropological and other literatures. Through this discussion, I develop some ideas on how approaching species as relationality, rather than order, undoes some of the problematic essentialisms of traditional determinist logics.

Request a copy of the paper by emailing kpflaum@uchicago.edu.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).