While conducting research on urbanised hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia, I was approached by a young hyena named Willi. In contrast to other hyenas, who tolerated my presence but otherwise had little interest in me, Willi insisted on some kind of engagement. Through biting, chase play, combing, following and standing by one other, Willi and I went beyond our species limitations and created an improvised intersubjectivity based on a will to understand. However, our friendship led to some harmful consequences for which I felt responsible. This led me to question the ethics of engagement with non-humans: if unforeseen harms can result from this kind of friendship, then is it better to keep animals at a safe distance? In the end, I argue that the solution is a deeper engagement, from which we might recognise the capacities of non-humans as agents and learn how to act responsibly in the presence of Others.
"Shared Responsibility in a Multispecies Playground,"
Between the Species:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bts/vol17/iss1/6