Eduardo Kohn

Associate Professor

Ph.D. UW-Madison, 2002

My research is concerned with human-animal relations and the implications that the ethnographic study of these can have for rethinking anthropology. The empirical context for this work is my ongoing long-term research on how the Quichua (Quechua) speaking Runa of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon inhabit the tropical forest and engage with its beings. 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 the task of understanding these sorts of engagements in a way that is both faithful to the multiple species involved and to the historical context of their interaction. 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 the many sorts of pattern-generating processes that mediate our relations to the world and to the other beings that inhabit it. In the process, I hope to move anthropology beyond “the human,” both as analytic and as bounded object of study.

My attempts to come to terms with these multi-species interactions have led me to develop what I call an “anthropology of life.” That is, I wish to encourage the practice of a kind of anthropology that situates all-too-human worlds within a larger series of processes and relationships that exceed the human, and I feel that this can be done in a way that is analytically precise.

Please see the following article as a representative of the analytical framework I am seeking to develop:
How Dogs Dream: Amazonian Natures and the Politics of Transspecies Engagement, American Ethnologist 34(1): 3-24.