What is the human, anyway?

Black and white photo of María Elena García
María Elena García is associate professor in the Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington in Seattle. A Peruvian woman of Quechua descent, García received her PhD in Anthropology at Brown University and has been a Mellon Fellow at Wesleyan University and Tufts University. Her first book, Making Indigenous Citizens: Identities, Development, and Multicultural Activism in Peru (Stanford, 2005) examined Indigenous and intercultural politics in Peru in the immediate aftermath of the war between Sendero Luminoso and the state. Her work on indigeneity and interspecies politics in the Andes has appeared in multiple edited volumes and journals such as Anthropology Now, Anthropological Quarterly, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Latin American Perspectives, and Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies. Her second book, Gastropolitics and the Specter of Race: Stories of Capital, Culture, and Coloniality in Peru (forthcoming in 2021 with the University of California Press and supported by an NEH Fellowship), examines the intersections of race, species, and capital in contemporary Peru. You can learn more about García's teaching and scholarship here.

Death of a Guinea Pig: Grief and the Limits of Multispecies Ethnography in Peru

Environmental Humanities, Vol 11:2, pps 351-372. © 2019

During ethnographic research on the biopolitics of culinary nationalism in Peru, I visited a guinea pig breeding farm north of Lima. Guinea pigs are considered “food animals” in the Andes. That encounter with pregnant guinea pigs—and with one guinea pig in particular who was tossed out of her enclosure and left to die—led me to a visceral questioning of my methodological and political approaches to and commitments in multispecies ethnography. I found myself uncomfortably close to the deaths of these female bodies yet unable to voice my dismay or grief. This essay is a modest effort to theorize what grief has to offer the practice of multispecies ethnography. I explore how writing about the ethnographic encounter as one of tragedy and loss might open up the productive possibilities of mourning and grief in connecting human and nonhuman worlds.

Click here to view full article from Duke University Press/Environmental Humanities site.