Multi-species methods: participatory research and the more-than-human
Michelle Bastian, University of Edinburgh
Widespread interest in challenging the traditional divides between humans and non-humans has contributed to a growing push for methods that can work with the distributed knowledges, experiences and values of our multi-species worlds. In response, proposals for the development of etho-ethnology and ethno-ethology (Lestel et al. 2006), multi-species ethnography (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010) and zoömusicology (Taylor 2013), amongst others, have augmented, hybridised and remade methodological repertoires. Participatory research methods have a long history of grappling with problems around who is understood ‘to know’ within the research process. These methods challenge what kinds of knowledges are seen to be legitimate, while also attending to the problems of producing knowledge within contexts of stubborn inequality. As a result, an engagement with the various debates that have taken place within participatory research offer a rich opportunity for those working with non-human others to reflect on their methodologies in complex and sophisticated ways. This paper analyses the outcomes from a recent research project that explored the potential for developing more-than-human participatory approaches. Over the course of four workshops, the team drew on participatory design, participatory action research and ethical frameworks for community-based participatory research to frame their encounters with dogs, bees, trees and water. Discussing some of the affordances and frictions that we experienced in this process, I will draw out some of the consequences of trying to think the ‘more-than-human’ and ‘participatory research’ together. Throughout I pay particular attention to the ways our preconceptions around ‘who knows’ were tested, expanded and confounded by our immersive experiences in more-than-human worlds.
Michelle Bastian is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. Her work focuses on the role of time in social practices of inclusion and exclusion. She has explored this in a wide variety of contexts including: feminist theories of community, local food, critical clocks, extinctions, transition towns and sustainable economies. Some of her more recent work has been published in Time & Society; Theory, Culture & Society; and the Journal of Environmental Philosophy.
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