Elephant Training in Nepal: Multispecies Ethnography and Rites of Passage
In this presentation Piers draws on his ethnographic research with working elephants and their handlers in the lowland national parks of Nepal, focussing in particular on elephant training at the Khorsor Elephant Breeding Centre. It is argued that the recently adapted elephant training practices do not merely consist of a practical process whereby juvenile elephants are made ready to respond to handlers in their future working lives. Rather, they also represent a rite of passage, by which both the principal handler and his elephant together achieve a new status. This ritual process is described in relation to anthropological theory developed by Van Gennep, Turner, and Bloch, but with the novel contention that it can also be applied to non-human persons. As such, this argument is also situated within the emerging field of multispecies ethnography, which claims that in a world of complex entanglements the object of anthropological enquiry can consist of more than just human beings.
- Arts: Working Papers