Does meat come from animals?

A multispecies approach to classification and belonging in highland Guatemala

by Emily Yates-Doerr

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In the Guatemalan highlands, distinctions between human and animal are often irrelevant to the treatment of an object as meat. I draw from my ethnographic fieldwork on eating practices in that region to suggest that if the recent social science turn to species is to be a departure from the limitations of Euro-American humanism, it must take species not as a genealogically mappable identity but as a coherence situated amid ever-transforming divisions and connections. Stable distinctions between human and other species are precisely what deserve to be called into question. The power of multispecies scholarship thus lies not in how it “centers the animal” but in its challenge to conventional taxonomic formulations of classification and belonging. That meat takes various, situated forms has implications for multicultural politics as well as anthropological method and inquiry.