Does Meat Come From Animals? A Multispecies Approach to Classification and Belonging
When conducting ethnographic fieldwork on eating practices in the Guatemalan highlands, I learned that distinctions between human and animal were often irrelevant to the treatment of an object as meat. I draw from this fieldwork to suggest that if the recent social science turn to species is to be a departure from the limitations of Euro-American humanism, it must take species not as a genealogically-mappable identity, but as a coherence situated amid ever-transforming divisions and connections. Stable distinctions between human and other species are precisely what deserve to be called into question. The power of multispecies scholarship thus lies not in how it “centers the animal,” but in its challenge to conventional taxonomic formulations of classification and belonging. That meat takes various, situated forms has implications for multicultural politics, as well as anthropological method and inquiry.
Emily Yates-Doerr is Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Health Care and the Body research group of the AISSR at the University of Amsterdam.