Vocalisation dictionary

“This is a visual dictionary showing how Mongolian herders vocalise to their herd animals, followed by the response of the herd animal(s). Each inter-title shows the herders’ vocalisation accompanied by the meaning of the vocalisation. The audio of the vocalisation is then repeated with accompanying visual material to give an indication of the context within which a vocalisation occurs.”

An extract from Natasha Fijn‘s A Multi-Species Etho-Ethnographic Approach to Filmmaking:

“There has been an emerging interest in multi-species, or interspecies, ethnography—work that is inclusive of non-human beings within anthropology(6). ‘Multi-species’ is a term derived from zoology and ecology but has been adopted by anthropologists to describe a focus that is not only on the human but also on our relationship and connections with non-human others.”(7) Previously non- humans in anthropology appeared as symbols, metaphors or tools for human social engagement but animals and plants are now becoming agents in their own right. Anna Tsing writes with regard to this new genre:

It allows something new: passionate immersion in the lives of the nonhumans being studied. Once such immersion was allowed only to natural scientists, and mainly on the condition that the love didn’t show. The critical intervention of this new science studies is that it allows learnedness in natural science and all the tools of the arts to convey passionate connection.(8)

My approach to filming herders and herd animals within a multi-species hybrid community—essentially two herding encampments in Mongolia—is an example of an ethno-ethological approach espoused by Dominique Lestel and colleagues. Their paper outlines new terms for studying humans and non-human animals, including elements of both ethology and ethnology, with a tradition rooted in phenomenology and biosemiotics. They use the term ethno-ethology:

[T]his new ethnological approach sets out to integrate the analysis and understanding of our knowledge of the living world, its organization as well as its application, in an approach to the interactive relational system that links humans and non-humans. At the same time, it grants all living beings the status of relational beings, that is, agents interacting on the phenomenon of ‘culture’ that was hitherto reserved for human beings.(9)”


Read the full paper here.

Feature image is a still from the film Living with Herds: Vocalisation Dictionary