Elephants, Ethnography, and Somatic Psychology: On Trans-Species Fieldwork with Elephants

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Jan 18, 2017 2:42:45 PM

A guest post by Bonnie Bright, Ph.D.

When Jonathan Erickson entered the M.A./Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology with a Specialization in Somatic Studies at Pacifica, he probably never imagined he would end up working with elephants in Cambodia as part of his curriculum. Admittedly, he has always been interested in highly intelligent animals, and he had encountered the Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia[1] during some prior travels in southeast Asia. Elephant Valley focuses on conservation and rehabilitation of elephants, maintaining a highly ethical stance. Eco-tourists who flock to the area are not allowed to ride the elephants, for instance, as the elephants are not there to serve humans, but rather to live their lives in peace, notes Jonathan. When it came time for Jonathan to conduct requisite summer fieldwork in the Somatics program, he found himself contemplating what it would be like to conduct his doctoral fieldwork in a sanctuary where elephants were treated with respect, and it seemed like a natural fit.

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Posted in: nature, Ecopsychology, somatic bodywork, animals