Thinking-Together through Ethical Moments in Multispecies Fieldwork
Dialoguing Expertise, Visibility, and Worlding
The recent proliferation of multispecies research contains a conspicuous gap when it comes to the methodological and ethical dimensions of navigating relations with more-than-human participants. Although codified protocols can be a useful starting point, the ethical tensions that inevitably emerge during fieldwork are often fetishized in final outputs. Whilst calls to ‘stay with the trouble’ are important, they often remain descriptive and un-actionable. In contrast, this paper offers a method for working through these tensions, asking what obligations they place on researchers and how they might be negotiated in practice, without slipping into advancing prescriptive rules or guidelines. We discuss this in the context of a range of ‘ethically important moments’ that we each encountered in the field, which were both complex and ambiguous. During our respective periods of fieldwork with dogs in Chornobyl and urban coyotes in Canada, we have each faced moments in which rapid decisions must be made as we navigate the affective intensities that move us as geographers, participant observers, and community members. In this paper, we perform and reflect upon Kohl and McCutcheon’s (2015) ‘kitchen table reflexivity’ as one approach for working through these moments, not just staying with them. Here, ethical tensions are worked through via dialogue. This paper is both method and product, as stories from our individual research are brought into dialogue around three fraught dimensions of multispecies research: negotiating expertise and positionality, making visible or concealing the animal, and intervening in animal worlds.
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