Ambiguous beings: the ontological autonomy of Inuit dogs

Author(s): Peter Whitridge

Year: 2016


Part of the attraction of relational ontology is its encouragement to discard conventional epistemological hierarchies. We needn’t frame our investigations with the usual weighty themes – economy, social relations, ideology – but can begin anywhere, with any sort of question, and tug on the thread until the archaeological fabric unravels. Here I begin with dogs, and their relations with humans and other animals in the Inuit past. Inuit had an exceptionally complex relationship with the dogs that shared their houses, pulled their sleds, helped them hunt, provided fur (and occasionally food), and generally occupied an ambiguous space between Inuit, non-Inuit humans, and other animals in Inuit belief systems. As beings that in part elected to live closely with humans (they often roamed free in villages) but were also entrapped by them (they exhibit repetitive patterns of stress and trauma due to work and human violence), and that enjoyed equally complex relations with the wild canids that killed them and reproduced with them, dogs represent an interesting opportunity to think about the ontological autonomy of non-human creatures.

Cite this Record

Ambiguous beings: the ontological autonomy of Inuit dogs. Peter Whitridge. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403338) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8R78H0X




Investigation Types
Archaeological Overview

Dog human-animal relations Inuit relational ontology

Geographic Keywords

Temporal Keywords
Historic Inuit Precontact Inuit

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1200 to 1950

Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.761; max lat: 83.508 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Peter Whitridge

File Information

  Name Size Creation Date Date Uploaded Access
2016-SAA-rel-ont-session-Whitridge-circulated-draft.docx 43.24kb Apr 4, 2016 May 27, 2016 9:01:13 AM Public
Draft of 2016 SAA paper circulated in advance to session participants.