An Ethnography of Human-Bee Relations in the Context of the Commercialisation of Beekeeping in West Tanzania

01 November 2020 → 31 October 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Anthropology of economy and development
    • Area studies
    • Ecological anthropology
multispecies ethnography human-bee relations commercialisation
Project description

Beekeeping is a widespread practice with a long history in Tanzania. The culture of beekeeping is diversifying due to the emergence of commercial beekeeping prompted by the high price of honey on the world market. Drawing on the many indications for the importance of bees and honey in religious, social, subsistence, and increasingly, commercial settings in Tanzania, this project argues for the need to move beyond the anthropocentric study of beekeeping. It aims to shift the attention to ‘human-bee relations’ by investigating the interactions between bees and humans in terms of dynamic and co-constitutive relations. To this end, it employs the approach of multispecies ethnography. This new flourishing field in environmental anthropology provides a methodological and theoretical framework for a ‘more-than-human’ perspective on culture. The project starts from the hypothesis that perspectives on the environment are informed by situated interactions between humans and non-human species. The central aim is to describe and compare the different perspectives on human-bee relations, and investigate how these perspectives differ according to the settings of the situated interactions between humans and bees. The project relies on the method of ethnographic fieldwork grounded in participant observation, in-depth interviews and extended case analysis. It thus contributes to the environmental humanities with a dynamic approach to the study of environmental perspectives.