Centre for Social Science and Global Health

Does Meat Come from Animals?

A Multispecies Approach to Classification and Belonging in Highland Guatemala

This article by Emily Yates-Doerr is inspired by the (participant-)observation that meat can take ontologically diverse forms—not all of which align with an understanding of meat that has underpinnings in mononaturalist phylogeny in which definable and orderable parts are linked together in one world.

In the Guatemalan highlands, distinctions between human and animal are often irrelevant to the treatment of an object as meat. I draw from my ethnographic fieldwork on eating practices in that region 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.

Publication Details

Emily Yates-Doerr (2015): Does Meat Come from Animals? A Multispecies Approach to Classification and Belonging in Highland Guatemala, American Ethnologist, 42:2, 309-323.

Published by  SSGH

8 February 2017