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Is the Anthropocene a Beastly Problem? Thoughts on Human-Animal Relationships and Contemporary Narratives of Change

Author(s): Hannah Chazin

Year: 2017

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Summary

Pizzly bears and coywolves have been making headlines over the past few years. Offspring of illicit pairings between species of charismatic and aggressive megafauna, these hybrid monsters are presented as signs and portents of a troubled future. This paper explores the relationship between contemporary discourses about unruly and uncanny hybrid species and academic efforts to define and engage with the Anthropocene. It questions the relationships between tacit understandings of the animal as a ‘determined’ entity (to which the human is or is not reducible) and narratives about the human past and the relationship between humans and non-humans over various timescales. This paper argues that the concern engendered by new, boundary-transgressing hybrid species relies on certain ideas about human-animal relationships. These ideas are shaped by imaginaries of how humans and animals relate as either wild or domesticated – premised on a temporal narrative of increasing human intervention and mastery over the natural world. In contrast, my work on human-animal relationships in ancient pastoralist societies suggests a different way of considering these questions. Viewing the herd as a human-animal hybrid shifts how we tell the history of human-animal interactions, moving the emphasis away from domestication.


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Is the Anthropocene a Beastly Problem? Thoughts on Human-Animal Relationships and Contemporary Narratives of Change. Hannah Chazin. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430818)


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Abstract Id(s): 17471

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America