When you open Eduardo Kohn‘s How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human (University of California Press, 2013), you are entering a forest of dreams: the dreams of dogs and men, dreams about policemen and peccaries, dreams prophetic and dreams instrumental. In this brilliant new ethnography of a village in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon, those dreams are woven into the lives and deaths of a bookful of selves (both human and non-human) to help readers reconsider what it means to be a thinking, living being and why it matters to anthropology, science studies, and beyond. In creating this “anthropology beyond the human,” Kohn calls into question our tendency to conflate representation with language, rethinking the relationship between human language and other forms of representation that humans share with other beings. Here, human lives are both emergent from and contiguous with a wider semiotic community of were-jaguars and sphinxes, barking dogs and falling pigs, men and women alive and dead, walking stick insects and tanagers, spirit masters and rubber trees. It is a transformative, inspiring, and critically meticulous book that deserves a wide readership and rewards close reading.
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