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JOHNSON Théophile

PhD student in social anthropology at Université Paris Nanterre

Doctoral dissertation entitled "Multi-sited ethnography of human-non-human relationship networks in Nepal", under the supervision of Anne de Sales

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How are relationships forged between living beings from different species ? How are they sustained over time outside of obvious domination processes ? Cartesian prejudices about the process of domestication have long been questioned, yet the workings of the relationship between humans and animals – for whom perceptions and processes of encoding meaning differ – have so far barely been described in the social sciences. In Nepal, the quality deemed indispensable for becoming a yak herder is khula man, literally, "open heartedness". This moral quality is acquired over time through a set of techniques, the aim of which is not to achieve an end-product but to promote inter-individual relationships. Describing and analysing the structure of these relationships calls for the development of new methods at the crossroads between ethology, ethnography and network analysis. Research on human-animal relationships in animal husbandry practices has mainly focused on Mongolian and Siberian areas. This work will broaden the comparative scope of human-animal relationship systems and will help to understand the influence of a different environment. Based on the yak pastoral system in the Manang Valley in Nepal, my research aims to provide a better understanding of the role of the animal in pastoralism and to document the discrete geopolitics of the relationships underlying highland livestock practices. I would also like to embark on a description of all the biocultural relationships in order to document the constant negotiations that determine relationships between living beings.

Keywords : anthropology of techniques, domestication, yak, shepherd, relational techniques

Fieldwork : Nepal, Manang

Dissertation project

Video (in French) "En immersion avec les yacks"

Voir en ligne : Théophile Johnson