Partnerships and understanding between Kazakh pastoralists and golden eagles of the Altai mountains : a multi-species ethnography
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This thesis is a study of the Kazakh tradition of hunting in partnership with golden eagles in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. It represents a unique relationship among the spectrum of human-animal interactions – here eagles live both fully independent lives in the ‘wild’ and yet, for a time, are brought into the domestic sphere by Kazakhs and behave, in many ways, as a domesticated animal would. Kazakhs are able to accomplish this through the deep ethno-ornithological knowledge of the lives of eagles and a willingness to see eagles as beings with agency and engage in an intersubjective relationship with them. Kazakh pastoralists rely entirely on animals for their livelihood, and therefore communicate with goats, sheep, horses, camels, yaks and eagles on a daily basis. None of these relationships are of dominance, but rather co-domesticity. The aim of this thesis is to use the lens of cultivating a relationship with an eagle to better examine how human-animal interactions make us who we are, and help us understand the world around us. There are strong parallels in the lives of the eagles and Kazakhs of the Altai Mountains – both migrate with the seasons and utilize landscapes in similar ways. Along with notions of ‘domestic’ and ‘wild’, apprenticeship is a strong theme in this thesis. A Kazakh hunter must apprentice himself to both his eagle and his human mentor. In turn, the eagle becomes an apprentice of sorts as it learns to communicate with humans. Layers of interspecies communication saturate the landscape and challenge the notion of human exceptionalism. When we think about animals this way, like the Kazakhs do, truly special human-animal partnerships can occur.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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