Eben Kirksey, "The Multispecies Salon" (Duke UP, 2014)


Eben Kirksey's wonderful new volume is an inspiring introduction to a kind of multispecies ethnography where artists, anthropologists, and others collaborate to create objects and experiences of great thoughtfulness and beauty. Growing out of a traveling art exhibit of the same name, The Multispecies Salon (Duke University Press, 2014) curates a collection of works that explore three major questions: "Which beings flourish, and which fail, when natural and cultural worlds intermingle and collide?" "What happens when the bodies of organisms, and even entire ecosystems, are enlisted in the schemes of biotechnology and the dreams of biocapitalism?" "...In the aftermath of disasters...what are the possibilities of biocultural hope?" Pioneering a style of collaboration inspired by Michel de Certeau's notion of "poaching," the contributions to the volume span essays on bioart and matsutake worlds, recipes for human-milk cheese and acorn mush, ruminations on the production of assmilk soap and on the nature and importance of hope, considerations of the brittlestar and the art of Patricia Piccinini, and much more. This is a volume that I will be returning to, recommending, and assigning for years to come.

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