On be(e)ing human. An ethnography of human-bee relations in the districts of Kigoma and Katavi in Tanzania

Start - End 
2019 - 2023 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures



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

By addressing the previously overlooked human-bee relations in Tanzania, the project will improve our understanding of socio-ecological dynamics in the East African context. Furthermore, it contributes to the field of the environmental humanities, more specifically to the scarce literature that sheds light on cultural, economical and political aspects of the drastic decline of honeybee populations worldwide since the early 2000s.



Phd Student(s)