MORETHANHUMAN MATTERS

An interview with Anne Galloway

Our guest this week is Anne Galloway, an Associate Professor in the School of Design Innovation at Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Anne is trained in sociology and anthropology, teaches courses in design and culture, and researches relations amongst people, places, animals and technologies. Her research interests include multispecies ethnography, human–animal relations, livestock agriculture, animal welfare, climate change, public controversies, feminist theory, and creative research methods. Anne is the founder of More-Than-Human Lab (www.morethanhumanlab.nz), a collaborative initiative that explores everyday entanglements of humans and nonhumans,  and imagines ways of living well in more than human worlds. When not at work, Anne is shepherd to small flocks of Arapawa sheep and rare-breed ducks, which inspire her research into farm animal welfare and public controversies.

       Hello, Anne, and thanks for joining me at morethanhumanworlds.com. Could you tell us how you came to be interested in studying more-than-human worlds and how the more-than-human worlds around you shape or inform your research on this topic?

Hello Sophie - I admire your work a great deal and thanks so much for inviting me!

There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t love animals, or live with them. Growing up it was dogs, then reptiles and amphibians, then cats, and now sheep and ducks too. I’ve had the pleasure of watching animals take their first breaths, and the privilege of witnessing their last. My time with animals has included some of the most joyous and sad moments of my life.

I first studied human-animal relations during my Masters’ degree, but it wasn’t until I moved to New Zealand ten or so years ago that my research interest in animal agriculture, and sheep in particular, took proper hold. To be honest, it’s also taken me the entire decade to come to terms with the kind of multispecies ethnographer I want to be and the kind of work I want to produce. About five years ago we moved out of the city and I brought four sheep home to live with us. I had vague intentions to walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk about animal farming, but I had no idea that single decision would so profoundly reshape me and my worldview!

 

       You recently published an essay titled “Flock” in the edited volume Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon. The notion of “flock” also features prominently on your online platform, www.morethanhumanlab.nz. Could you tell us a bit more about this concept – why it is good to think and live with, what light it sheds on more-than-human relations, and what the morethanhumanlab platform is aiming to achieve in that regard?

The lag time between submission and publication never seems as profound to me as when I write about our flock instead of animals-in-general because our relationships are constantly changing, even if our fundamental relation doesn’t. But I’m interested in animal domestication as an ongoing, reciprocal, and potentially mutually beneficial, process of home-making. I like “flock” as a collective term that is under-specified and can flex to allow regularly changing individuals and connections and situations.

The smallest unit of flock is two, although both sheep and humans tend to live together in small groups. Humans call this social unit family or kin, and in many cultures it extends to include nonhuman animals and others. So, in that sense, flock is a kind of kinship that includes sheep. But mostly I like that flock is a verb and a noun. It reminds me that to come and go together is a choice we make. Although people stereotypically view sheep as dull or unthinking creatures, the flocking process is rich and complicated by any number of material and social conditions at any given time. To be flock is to choose when to lead and when to follow, when to run and when to rest, when to fight for life and when to let die. There is a combination of autonomy and collectivism in flock(ing) that I don’t know from anywhere else - although I’m also pretty sure that sheep are Le Guin’s living representation of Taoism!

The More-Than-Human Lab, as a university-based collective, is inspired by my relationship with sheep but comprises a flock of its own. Not in the human-centred minister and congregation sense - the danger of using flock as metaphor is always this misinterpretation! - but simply recognising that even as individual people come and go, and even as individual animals are born and die, the collective persists.

 

       Your research cross-pollinates theoretical and empirical insights derived from an array of different disciplines – from sociology and anthropology, through to design culture and innovation. In your view, how does interdisciplinarity help us understand and inhabit the world differently as humans, and in relation to other-than-human lifeforms and elements that animate this world?

I’ve only ever studied and worked in interdisciplinary ways because I’m an incredibly undisciplined person! I’m also easily bored and distracted, and have chosen to live with these traits by working across a range of ideas and practices. To me, this approach supports what’s been called a “world of many worlds” but it’s also led me to ways of thinking, making, and doing where I have to actually live the politics and ethics I write and speak. As someone who raises animals for companionship and food, when academics talk about what “we” should do about the animal agriculture “problem” I’ve got a real stake in it, and that’s important to me as a researcher and as a person.

But, honestly, I also think bringing animals explicitly into the picture just compels interdisciplinarity. I mean is there anything more intellectually anthropocentric than weighing in on the “animal question”? Someone like Tom Gauld (https://www.tomgauld.com/) could illustrate an entire series on individuals animals from different disciplinary or theoretical perspectives. It would be hilarious and depressing and brilliant.

 

       Finally, Anne, what advice would you give to young scholars interested in studying more-than-human worlds?

 

This is for everyone, but especially animal people: Spend as much time being with animals as you can! Remember that you too are an animal. Be open to becoming more animal. Be intellectually humble, generous and kind. Work with the world, not for the world.

Left to right: Esther, Gus and Anne, and Godric. Source: http://www.morethanhumanlab.nz/the-animals/

Left to right: Ulrich, Ulla, Max and Murray, Grace, Gregor Samsa and Anne. Source: http://www.morethanhumanlab.nz/the-animals/

Top-left to bottom-right: Ursula and Victoria, Ernest, Mercy, Max, Murray, and Ned, Ned and Anne, Edith, and Enid Coleslaw . Source: http://www.morethanhumanlab.nz/the-animals/

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