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Conceptualizing the social beyond the human

My research on animals has focused on captive and wild great apes. My earliest research sought to explore the social and affective bonds between chimpanzees and their caretakers in a Catalonian primate sanctuary, and to explore the ways in which ethnographic approaches can shed light on the multiple and contradictory positions people take concerning the interiority of animal life and experience.

Later research examined the relationships between animal behavior scientists and the wild great apes they study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rather than examining the conventional tools of scientific knowledge-making, my research on scientists explored the interstitial moments in which they search for their study subjects; endangered and elusive great apes called bonobos. Engaging with feminist geographies of environmental crisis, this research has attempted to rethink the kinds of labor required to do scientific research, to theorize modes of thinking and relating which are embodied, introspective and uncertain, and to conceptualize sociality beyond the human in ways which can account for alterity, asymmetry and indeterminacy.


© 2012 Alcayna-Stevens

Photograph of a young bonobo looking directly at the ethnographer and other junior field primatologists who are following him and his family through the forest in Mai Ndombe province

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