Led On Line
Presentazione - About us
Novita' - What's new
Lededizioni Home Page Ricerca - Search
Catalogo - Catalogue
Per contattarci - Contacts
Per gli Autori - For the Authors
Statistiche - Statistics
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy

On Others’ Emotions, and Ours. A Reflection on Narratives, Categories, and Heuristic Devices

Sabrina Tonutti


This article reflects on some epistemological and methodological tenets of cultural anthropology such as the informants’ role in ethnographical research, the relation between collective phenomena and individuals, and that between case studies (individual level) and abstraction (generalization). These tenets will be addressed focusing on the lack of recognition of animals’ individuality and agency in social relations, and on the related humans/animals opposition. With the topic of the emotional lives of animals as a starting point, the essay sets out to reflect on how the narratives we use to interpret and describe them inform our enquiry within an anthropocentric and essentialist view, consequently biasing our understanding of diversity.


Emotions; humans; animals; individuals; interspecific relations; ethology; ethnography; anthropology; microhistory; informants; subjectivity.

Full Text:



Adorni, Eleonora. 2012. Sotto lo sguardo umano. Esposizione, rappresentazione e immaginari dell'alterità animale. Un sentiero zooantropologico all'Acquario di Genova. MA thesis, University of Bologna.

Ardener, Shirley. 1975. Perceiving Women. London: Malaby Press.

Bekoff, Marc and Jane Goodall. 2007. The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - And Why They Matter. Novato (California): New World Press.

Bekoff, Marc and Jessica Pierce. 2009. Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Darwin, Charles. 1859. The Origin of Species. London: Murray.

Derrida, Jacques. 2006. L’animal que donc je suis. Paris: Éditions Galilée.

Ginzburg, Carlo. 1966. I Benandanti, stregoneria e culti agrari tra Cinquecento e Seicento. Torino: Einaudi.

. 1976. Il formaggio e i vermi. Il cosmo di un mugnaio del Cinquecento. Torino: Einaudi.

—. 1996. “Making Things Strange: The Prehistory of a Literary Device.” Representations 56: 8–28.

Grendi, Edoardo. 1977. “Micro-analisi e storia sociale.” Quaderni storici 35 (2): 506-520.

Griaule, Marcel. (1948) 1975. Dieu d’eau: entretiens avec Ogotemmêli. Paris: Fayard.

Matsuzawa, Tetsuro. 2003. “Koshima Monkeys and Bossou Chimpanzees: Long- Term Research on Culture in Nonhuman Primates.” In Animal Social Complexity. Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies edited by Frans B.M. de Waal and Peter L. Tyack, 374-387. Cambridge (Mass.) & London: Harvard University Press.

Pignato, Carmela. 1997. “Temi e luoghi di un ossimoro.” La Ricerca Folklorica 35: 39-52.

Shapiro, Kenneth. 1989. “The Death of the Animal: Ontological Vulnerability.” Between the Species 5: 183-193.

Tonutti, Sabrina. 2011. “Anthropocentrism and the definition of ‘culture’ as a marker of the human/animal divide. “ In Anthropocentrism. Humans, Animals, Environments, edited by Rob Boddice, 183-199. Leiden: Brill.

—. 2007. “Imo e Ogotemmeli: eccesso di personalità. Una riflessione attorno a soggettività, informatori, cultura, persone.” La Ricerca Folklorica 54: 115-122.

Wikan, Unni. 1992. “Beyond the Words: The Power of Resonance.” American Ethnologist 19 (3): 460-482.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2013-002-tonu

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo