WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn74 )

Pastora-logy: what might anthropology learn from pastoral and nomadic lifeworlds?

Organizers

    Mathilde Morin

    France

    University of Oxford

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Adul Wahid Khan

    Pakistan

    University of Oxford

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Evan Griffith

    USA

    Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Tufts University

    Online - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Nomadic Peoples

Keywords:

pastoral lifeworlds, nomadic thinking, the anthropology of landscapes, human-animal relationships, the commons

Abstract:

This panel is launched by members of a newly founded group of students and academics working on pastoralism and nomadic people at the University of Oxford (some members come from partner institutions). While this group is cross-disciplinary, a number of us conduct ethnographic research. In this panel open to all, we aim to show how anthropology as a discourse and as a practice is challenged and revivified by our object of study. Thick descriptions of herders, pastures, and livestock around the world in the conditions of the Anthropocene enable us to reflect notably upon : - How anthropology can become not only a discourse about cultures and societies but also about landscapes. When working on pastoralism and nomadic people, we come to study the generative circular relationship between an environmental reality and the people who produce it, while being also produced by it. Finding the appropriate method to “study” a landscape is a core question for us. This also means we “fertilize” our work with theories stemming from the fields of geography, or ecology for instance. As such, the usual scope of anthropology is enlarged, posing questions about the nature of our practices. - How anthropology could be engrossed and enlivened by pastoral and nomadic thinking rather than just being a discourse on local regimes of knowledge. This is becoming especially important now that the pastoralist way of life is pointed out as an “ecological” one, that we need to preserve and learn from for the future. How might we, as anthropologists who practice in-depth studies of these lifeworlds that become so attractive, help with that? How, more deeply, can we continue to strive to de-colonize our perspectives and truly let our vision be transformed by the people with whom we work? - How anthropologists can effectively serve the people with whom they work. As the way of life of pastoralists and nomads is increasingly under threat, this question is now vital. This leads us to reflect on deep ethical issues regarding our scientific practice. - How anthropologist could integrate temporality better in their work. As much as we work on “traditional” ways of life that have been perpetuated since pre-historical times, we must strive to integrate historicity in our ethnographies, and reveal how the pastoralist livelihood shifts with modern challenges — including those related to climate change. This changes the nature of anthropological knowledge, which has long focused on invariant features and immutable structures. - Finally, our research interrogates the transformative process of ethnography on researchers. As most of us come from urban and privileged backgrounds, conducting research in the pastoral and nomad worlds has lasting effects on our identities. While this has often been omitted by researchers, we would like to interrogate the emotional processes that researchers undergo in the field, and the afterlife of the research experience in the researchers’ lives.