The Practice of Poaching
Cite as: Kirksey, Eben, Craig Schuetze and Nick Shapiro (2011) Poaching at the Multispecies Salon: Introduction. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 99/100: 130 (Download article PDF)
Poaching is an exercise in scholarly generosity. The Matsutake Worlds Research Group – a team of multispecies ethnographers who are using the “mycorrhizal life” of matsutake mushrooms as a figure for illuminating the workings of capital and power, and nature and culture – developed the practice of poaching as they experimented with modes of collaboration. They write:
What does it mean to “poach” another person’s paper, especially an unpublished one? We tend to rely on an individualistic model of innovation in anthropology, and the vast majority of papers and books by anthropologists are single-authored. We get credit for being the first person to coin a term or offer a new idea or theoretical framework in published form. If we use someone else’s published ideas, we are borrowing and must cite them. If we use someone’s unpublished ideas, we are stealing. How can we do collaborative work under the reign of such notions of intellectual property? (Matsutake Worlds 2010)
The Matsutake Worlds Research Group began to use poaching as a way to think outside such conventional models of knowledge production. Michel de Certeau speaks of “reading as poaching” (1984:165) in The Practice of Everyday Life. This assertion is part of de Certeau’s larger argument that consumption is not a passive act determined by systems of production. He suggests that reading is a foundational mode of modern consumption, and therefore, of everyday life. In contrast to the “private hunting reserves” (1984:171) cultivated by elite literati, who alone claim rights to inscribe meanings to texts or landscapes, reading as poaching allows one to “convert the text through reading and to ‘run it’ the way one runs traffic lights” (1984:176).
The English word “poach” is related to the French word pocher, to push or poke with a finger or pointed instrument, to pierce (Matsutake Worlds 2010). At the Multispecies Salon, panelists poached each other’s papers, like chefs “poach” pears, using red wine and honey to intensify and transform the flavor of the fruit.
Certeau, Michel de (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California.
Matsutake Worlds Research Group (2010) “Thoughts for a World of Poaching.” Cultural Anthropology website. http://www.culanth.org/?q=node/364, accessed November 2010.