Women and Cattle “Becoming-With” in Botswana


  • Andrea Petitt Uppsala University
  • Alice J. Hovorka York University




Cattle are paramount to lives, livelihoods and landscapes in Botswana. Human-cattle relations emerge and evolve through historically-situated social relations of power based on gender, ethnicity, and class. Our paper explores intersectional human-cattle relations in Botswana within the contemporary period of enhanced commercialization. Specifically, with data from participant observation and semi-structured interviews with women cattle owners in Ghanzi District, Botswana, we investigate how women across a range of ethnicities become-with cattle and how cattle are becoming-with women cattle owners, directly or mediated through hired labour and/or technology. By operationalizing Haraway’s multispecies ‘becoming-with’ through intersectionality theory we articulate the nuanced ways in which individuals or social groups of two distinct species (here humans and cattle) become who they are. We show that whereas gender and ethnicity dynamics place women as engaging directly with cattle, engaging indirectly with cattle or becoming-without cattle, class most visibly shape the way that cattle become-with women cattle owners and other humans. We offer a novel illustration of an intersectional becoming-with, highlighting human-animal relations in the context of agriculture and socio-economic change in the Global South.


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Author Biographies

Andrea Petitt, Uppsala University

Andrea Petitt is a researcher at the Centre for Gender Research (Cfgr) at Uppsala University and her main research interests focus on gender and human-animal relations in agriculture. She has a M. Sc. in ‘Anthropology’ from Université de Montréal, a M. Sc in ‘Africa and International development cooperation’ from Gothenburg University and a Ph. D. in ‘Rural development’ from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Previous research include cowboy masculinities in the Canadian west, women’s cattle ownership in Botswana and practices of breeding traditional Swedish cattle. She is currently working with an international postdoc, funded by the Swedish Research Council, on gendered human-horse-cattle relations on working cattle ranches and in sport in Sweden and the USA.

Alice J. Hovorka, York University

Alice J. Hovorka is the Dean and Professor at the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University, Canada. With a PhD in Geography from Clark University, her current research focuses on animals, reflecting her theoretical and empirical interest in species relations of power. This work takes place primarily in Botswana, Canada and Costa Rica. Alice also enjoys teaching and supervising graduate students and post-graduate students, with a focus on experiential learning, reflective practice and classroom participation.




How to Cite

Petitt, Andrea, and Alice Hovorka. 2020. “Women and Cattle ‘Becoming-With’ in Botswana”. Humanimalia 12 (1):145-66. https://doi.org/10.52537/humanimalia.9433.




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