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Durham e-Theses
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Multispecies relations in rural Sierra Leone: Dwelling, livelihoods, and more-than-human health after Ebola

KANDEH, MARTIN,SHEKU (2024) Multispecies relations in rural Sierra Leone: Dwelling, livelihoods, and more-than-human health after Ebola. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.




This thesis is an ethnographic study of multispecies relations in Sierra Leone in the post 2014-2016 Ebola context. The study is based upon five months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in a rural village, southern Sierra Leone. It focuses on the dwelling activities of villagers as a window to explore the ways that people live and interact with their environment and how these practices influence human-animal encounters. Using a multispecies approach that focuses on the entangled lives of humans and animals as both biological and social actors, this study follows the ways that people dwell across different spaces – within and outside the built structure of the home. It describes how processes of dwelling are intimately bound up in relationship with the natural surroundings, and how this closeness consequently makes people inseparably connected to other nonhuman organisms. It shows that dwelling in this rural community is a quintessentially multispecies activity, where villagers and animals intimately participate in each other’s worlds.

The main argument of this thesis is that human interactions with animals go beyond the narrow concerns of economics, food, and property relations. Human-animal relations are multidimensional, involving economic, social, moral, political, and spiritual dimensions, and these relationships and practices are embedded in the dwelling activities of people. People’s modes of existence and ways of living in the world brings them into intimate relations with other nonhuman beings. This study illustrates these relations by showing how villagers and animals share the same moral and political worlds, how animals participate in mediating spiritual relations among people, and the ways in which animals help humans to understand and navigate their world. Following the multi-layered and complex nature of these interactions and how they are produced and shaped by the everyday living activities of people, this study also demonstrates the implications of these encounters on health and wellbeing, engaging in dialogue with existing scholarship in medical anthropology that is concerned with the different ways that multispecies interfaces produce and influence health outcomes. Contrary to public health approaches to zoonosis in the post-Ebola period that often focus on a narrow selection of animal species and interactions in relation to concerns about viral ‘spill-over’, this thesis brings into view other forms of human-animal contact and species as issues of human-animal wellbeing that are not reflected in the current public health agenda. The thesis proposes that issues of human-animal health and wellbeing cannot be fully understood as separate from people’s modes of existence and the different ways that they live and interact with their environment. The study contends that, any attempt to understand these relations whether in the context of livelihood, food and economic security, or health, should begin with a broader conceptualisation of the kinds of dwelling practices that prevail among people.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 Feb 2024 15:24

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