Volume 34, Issue 1 p. 3-24

How dogs dream: Amazonian natures and the politics of transspecies engagement



Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, 261 McGraw Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853 [email protected]

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First published: 07 January 2008
Citations: 394


Under the rubric of an “anthropology of life,” I call for expanding the reach of ethnography beyond the boundaries of the human. Drawing on research among the Upper Amazonian Runa and focusing, for heuristic purposes, on a particular ethnological conundrum concerning how to interpret the dreams dogs have, I examine the relationships, both intimate and fraught, that the Runa have with other lifeforms. Analytical frameworks that fashion their tools from what is unique to humans (language, culture, society, and history) or, alternatively, what humans are commonly supposed to share with animals are inadequate to this task. By contrast, I turn to an embodied and emergentist understanding of semiosis—one that treats sign processes as inherent to life and not just restricted to humans—as well as to an appreciation for Amazonian preoccupations with inhabiting the points of view of nonhuman selves, to move anthropology beyond “the human,” both as analytic and as bounded object of study.