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‘Herding is his favourite thing in the world’: Convivial world-making on a multispecies farm

Donati, Kelly
Journal of rural studies 2019 v.66 pp. 119-129
anthropogeography, chickens, cows, dogs, farms, herding, human-animal relations, humans, livestock production, sheep, slaughter, social anthropology, working animals, Victoria (Australia)
At its etymological roots, conviviality attends fundamentally to the question of how to live well together. This multispecies ethnography of a small multispecies farm in Victoria, Australia employs conviviality as a lens through which to explore the co-constituted world of agriculture and the possibilities of its multispecies pleasures. Engaging with literature in science and technology studies, cultural anthropology and human geography, the farm is approached as a lively site of conviviality, with the writings of nineteenth-century socialist utopian Charles Fourier employed as an alternative imaginary for making sense of animal-human relations in agriculture. Exploring themes of breed, work and care, this paper draws on strategic anthropocentrism to posit a vantage point from which to recognise how animals and their pleasures co-produce the social worlds of farming. The relational dynamic between humans, working dogs, cows, sheep and chickens tells a lively story of material and affective entanglement but also reveals how the intimacies of affection and care sit uncomfortably alongside the reality of slaughter. These social dynamics are explored to propose that the good life in livestock production is one that is co-produced and judged by animals themselves and that a more convivial agriculture is contingent on humans and animals being on better working terms.