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What horse knows: an anthropologic study on the human-animal bond in hippotherapy

Grant number: 12/16260-9
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): November 01, 2012
Effective date (End): August 31, 2014
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Urban Anthropology
Principal Investigator:Felipe Ferreira Vander Velden
Grantee:Luna Castro Pavão
Host Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):13/18940-0 - What does the horse know: an anthropological study on the human-animal bond in hippotherapy, BE.EP.MS


From an anthropological perspective, this research seeks to understand how the human-animal interaction outlines itself within certain contemporary therapeutic practice. Thus, the present study aims to investigate the sets of values, ideas and practices of the actors involved in hippotherapy. In this sense, one might wonder about the role that animals play in these entanglements between humans and animals, allowing to see more clearly the association between humans and animals circumscribed in this healing mechanisms. Are these animals only auxiliaries (in a utilitarian and instrumental bias) or, more than that, therapeutic agents of these treatments and, effectively, complements to the action of human therapists?Riding-horses seems to be equipped with new skills and, above all, deployed as a mechanism for encouraging and developing for social, psychological, physical and motor skills in humans. So, it must be taken into account the practices of professionals and agents involved in therapeutic institutions and of certain sectors of medicine and health that use the ownership of animals for curative purposes (such as therapies for the treatment of disabilities and physical difficulties, mental disorders like autism and cerebral palsy, psychotherapy sessions, among others.), as well as the performance of the animals itself in question.In the context of the screen, the presence of horses as therapeutic elements seems to favor the assignment of certain categories of explanation for these animals, such as the notion of workers and co-therapists.It is noteworthy that the human-animal relationship is subsumed in that relationship that founded anthropology as a field of knowledge itself, that is, between Nature and Culture (Levi-Strauss, 1949). Including other beings in the analysis fields of the humanities and anthropology, current discussions about the relationship between nature and culture replaces the animals (and other otherness) as agents and fields of practices, more than mere symbols that inspire and make think humanity itself (Kohn, 2007), in opposition to the status of exclusivity which hitherto was enjoyed by human beings as subjects of the world for excellence. Aside to the Western dualistic categories, emerge notions like naturecultures, companion species (Haraway, 2003 and 2008), abduction of agency (Gell, 1998), the ideas of Ingold about the 'body-person' and its concepts of engagement and dwelling perspective (2000), in addition to the proposal of an anthropology of life produced by Edward Kohn (2009) and his 'transspecies ethnography'- concepts that will guide the investigative exercise throughout this project.In view of the debates mentioned, this study intends to investigate the field of hippotherapy, seeking to understand the status given to dogs and horses in this therapy, inserted here less as companies and symbols, but as 'auxiliaries', motivators', 'co-therapists' and "workers". Some apparent changes in dealing with these animals point, somehow, to a reconfiguration of the category of "animal" and of the human-animal bond itself. In this sense, the research to be conducted could, eventually, contribute to a reflection on the process of redefining the ontological boundaries between humans and animals. (AU)

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