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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Thomas White, (University of Cambridge)

A Multispecies Ethnography of the State: livestock and the politics of affect in a Chinese border region

This paper examines the role of animals in the politics of western Inner Mongolia, where pastoralism has been under threat from grassland conservation policies. Recent literature on the active role of animals in pastoralist societies, inspired by the turn to ‘multispecies ethnography’, has tended to bracket out consideration of the relationship between pastoralists and the state. Meanwhile, the political ecology of China’s pastoral regions has focussed on governmental rationalities, but has little to say about the animals thus governed, whose docility is taken for granted. This paper focusses instead on the political affordances of the liveliness of livestock, in particular their affective sensitivity, a sensitivity which is seen to be variously shared with pastoralists and the state, and which thus helps to structure the political terrain of this border region.

Friday, 2 February, 2018 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Room Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge