About Co-operative Research with More-than-human Beings
The term “more-than-human” disrupts the false separation of humans from Nature (Abram, 1996). Terms such as “non-human” and “other-than-human” reinforce the false narrative that humans stand alone, above, and separate from the remainder of planetary existence, and therefore, all other species are defined by not being human. “More-than-human” troubles human exceptionalism and acknowledges the expansive agencies and unique ways of knowing of all biological and material beings, including flora, fauna, fungi, rocks, rivers, wind, etc. (Mathews, 2019).
Co-operative research with more-than-humans is an emerging field based on participatory research in human studies that emphasize working with as opposed to on research subjects (Bastian, Jones, Moore, & Roe, 2017; Heron, 1996; Heron & Reason, 2001, 2008; Noorani & Brigstocke, 2018; Reason & Bradbury, 2001). By working co-operatively with the more-than-humans, we recognize their capacity to participate and their unique agencies, even if we cannot always understand, perceive, or interpret their meaning. This approach is based on a panpsychic worldview that suggests that rather than mind being an ephemeral, unmeasurable, undefined, and separate entity, it is an inherent quality of matter, infusing everything that exists within the Cosmos (Mathews, 2003). Because the world and its myriad beings are mindful, we can therefore engage with them to form communicative and reciprocal relationships.
Of course, this way of thinking is not new. Indigenous cultures worldwide that have always recognized the agencies of all beings, that relationships must be reciprocal, that reality emerges collaboratively from those relationships, that humans are not the center of the universe, and that there are many ways of knowing (Bawaka-Country et al., 2015; Bawaka-Country et al., 2016; TallBear, 2011, 2013)..
I therefore enter this experiment with full awareness of its potential pitfalls. However, by working co-operatively with the more-than-humans with whom I share a landbase to rewild, I will challenge the “objective” anthropocentric knowledge systems that underpin current conservation science and maintain the status quo of the Anthropocene. Instead, I hope to prioritize universal flourishing as a primary objective (Reason & Bradbury, 2001)
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land areas for them to repopulate and migrate, such as the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park (Jørgensen, 2015; Soulé & Noss, 1998; Tokarski & Gammon, 2016). Some go further to advocate for recreating the conditions of the pre-human Pleistocene Era in which herds of grazing megafauna and feline predators roamed the plains of North America and Europe (Carey, 2016; Donlan et al., 2006).
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