“Emotions Run Up and Down the Leash”: Cultivated Affection and Dog-Handler Teams in the United States Military
Ashley Drake | Teaching Fellow, Comparative Human Development
Discussant: JM Henderson | PhD Candidate, Anthropology
Friday, January 15th, 12:00-1:20pm
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Paper Abstract: In this article, I explore how one of the most valued forms of explosives detection technology, the military working dog team, is founded upon the cultivation of a strong affective bond between dog and handler. Based on twelve months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, I examine the range of practices that go into fostering an ideal dog-handler relationship, from building rapport and enacting general care to controlling emotions and deciphering cues. In order to better understand the motivation for these practices, I suggest that we analyze the dog-handler bond through the framework of transduction (Helmreich 2007, 2015). In doing so, I show that handlers learn to relate to their dogs by attending to, converting, and comprehending the transmission of information across the team rather than by interpreting the dog’s perspective through the lens of human models of perception, relation, or emotion.