Naturalism and the representation of animals in the southern French Pyrenees
AbstractModels of “Western ontology” often depict the Euro-American world in a stereotypical way that does not seem to have much to do with empirical reality. The aim of this article is to assess the ethnographic soundness of one of these models: naturalism (Descola 2013). In Beyond nature and culture, Philippe Descola makes the hypothesis that Westerners are “naturalists”, namely, that they trace an unbridgeable gap between the domain of culture, to which they belong, and the “mute and impersonal” domain of nature. Thus, for alleged naturalists, animals are nothing but machines, devoid of all the inner qualities typical of the human being. In this paper, I will analyze the relation between naturalism and ethnographic data collected in Semot, a small village in the southern French Pyrenees. Through a focus on human-animal relations in the contexts of hunting and herding, it will be shown how naturalism proves to be a rather inadequate model to account for the ways animals are represented in Semot.
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