Natural relations: Horses, knowledge, technology

Joanna Latimer, Lynda Birke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maintaining the tensions and divisions between the human and non-human, nature and culture has been a mainstay of Euro-American thought. Drawing upon two studies of people's associations with horses, we examine how these divisions are being reworked in the social sciences as well in everyday life. We focus on how different ideas about 'horses', 'horsemanship' and how knowledge is acquired, accomplishes different social worlds. Specifically, what emerges in these differential discourses is that a paradox is put into play to make a distinction between traditional and contemporary ways of being in relation to nature and the animal; it is the paradox of what we want to refer to as 'natural technologies'. We suggest that the paradox of 'natural technologies' is a proliferating feature of Euro-American cultural life that troubles old divisions between nature and culture and propose that it indicates less about a politics of nature than a politics of culture. Specifically, we show that the preoccupation with bringing nature, and the non-human, more into alignment with the human promotes ethics and equality as matters of lifestyle choice to the exclusion of very specific ideas about tradition, hierarchy, evolution and socialization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

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