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Investigating the Other: Considerations on Multi-Species Research

Big Data? Qualitative Approaches to Digital Research

ISBN: 978-1-78441-051-3, eISBN: 978-1-78441-050-6

Publication date: 3 November 2014



The last few decades have seen the rise of a new field of inquiry – human–animal studies (HAS). As a rich, theoretically and disciplinarily diverse field, HAS shines a light on the various relations that humans have with other animals across time, space and culture. While still a small, but rapidly growing field, HAS has supported the development of multiple theoretical and conceptual initiatives which have aimed to capture the rich diversity of human–animal interactions. Yet the methodologies for doing this have not kept pace with the ambitions of such projects. In this chapter, we seek to shed light on this particular issue.


We consider the difficulties of researching other-than-human beings by asking what might happen if methods incorporated true inter-disciplinarity, for instance if social scientists were able to work with natural scientists on multi-species ethnographies. The lack of established methodology (and the lack of cross disciplinary research between the natural and social sciences) is one of the main problems that we consider here. It is an issue complicated immensely by the ‘otherness’ of animals – the vast differences in the ways that we (humans) and they (animals) see the world, communicate and behave. This chapter provides the opportunity for us to consider how we can take account of (if not resolve) these differences to arrive at meaningful research data, to better understand the contemporary world by embarking upon more precise investigations of our relationships with animals.


Drawing upon a selection of examples from contemporary research of human–animal interactions, both ethnographic and scientific, we shed light on some new possibilities for multi-species research. We suggest that this can be done best by considering and applying a diversity of theoretical frameworks which deal explicitly with the constitution of the social environment.


Our methodological exploration offers the reader insight into new ways of working within the template of human animal studies by drawing upon a range of useful theories such as post-structuralism and actor network theory (ANT) (for example, Callon, 1986; Hamilton & Taylor, 2013; Latour, 2005; Law, Ruppert, & Savage, 2011) and post-humanist perspectives (for example, Anderson, 2014; Haraway, 2003; Wolfe, 2010). Our contribution to this literature is distinctive because rather than remaining at the philosophical level, we suggest how the human politics of method might be navigated practically to the benefit of multiple species.



Taylor, N. and Hamilton, L. (2014), "Investigating the Other: Considerations on Multi-Species Research", Big Data? Qualitative Approaches to Digital Research (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 251-271.



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