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The Birth of the Herd

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Abstract One of the most significant contributions of archaeology to the studies of human-animal relations is the concept of the “domestication” of non-human animals. Domestication is often seen as a specific human-animal relation that explains the ways people and animals interact. However, I argue, that “domestication” does not explain anything but has to be explained or “reassembled” by focusing on the many historically specific ways human and animals live together. Thus, the paper tackles the emergence of a “herd”, an assembly of animals, humans and things that appeared in the Neolithic, by following the ways the different agencies—human, animal, material and composite—are involved in the creation of new sociality. Living with animals is always already a material practice. It includes material culture, bodies, gestures, actions, habits, and body skills. It requires new practices and skills of flocking, herding, closing, observing, separating, amassing, and forming a queue; skills to be learned and employed by the participants. However, numerous resistances and translations are encountered and employed along the way, changing everybody in the process. In this way new bodies and persons—human and animal—are created, ultimately leading to the “herd”, a new way of association of animals, people, and things. From this perspective the agency and power is distributed and not confined to one species or group. There is no single locus of power and agency and no hegemony or “domination” but power and resistance that works from everywhere. Living with animals is not a matter of management, control or domination, but it is about making hybrid society work, a matter of politics, for all the parties involved.

Affiliations: 1: University of Ljubljana


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