“Humanist” Methods in a “More-than-Human” World?
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This paper takes recent methodological innovations and related conceptual developments as an opportunity to reflect on the possibilities of recuperating what may be considered a “humanist” method—oral history—for “more-than-human” research. Oral history, often deployed in the context of subjects of social movements asserting agency and making history, may seem ? to the paradigmatic “humanist method.” Many recent methodological innovations emerge out of what have variously been termed the affective turn, the emergence of posthumanism, animal studies, and the turn to nature and materiality. The paper takes as its departure point Sarah Whatmore’s careful articulation of “the urgent need to supplement humanist methods that rely on generating talk and text, with experimental practices that amplify other sensory, bodily and affective registers and extend the company and modality of what constitutes a research subject” (Whatmore 2006: 606–7). Though Whatmore is not entirely dismissive of humanist methods, I ask whether it makes sense to think of methods as humanist, drawing analogies with feminist reflections on whether there is a “feminist method.” I suggest we reconsider oral history as a practice, and not merely a technique which generates talk and text, and reconceptualize our notions of “human/ist” research subjects. I explore the possibilities of rethinking methods, such as oral history, for more-than-human research, through drawing on my own ethnographic oral history research on women’s environmental activism.