Vol 33 No 1 (2017)

Walking With Elephants: A Case for Trans-Species Ethnography

Jonathan Erickson
Pacifica Graduate Institute
Published June 13, 2018
  • elephants,
  • anthropology,
  • ethnography,
  • depth psychology,
  • ecopsychology,
  • liberation psychology,
  • somatic,
  • animal research,
  • qualitative research,
  • nonverbal communication
  • ...More


This paper argues for the development of new methodologies for studying animals and human-animal relationships that take qualitative and hermeneutic considerations into account. Drawing on the traditions of anthropology, depth psychology, and somatic studies, the paper advocates for the use of a trans-species ethnography that situates the researcher as a participant-observer in the field, in relationship with the subjects of study. This theoretical framework is illustrated by case study in the form of the author’s fieldwork on human-elephant communication at an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.