Ways of Knowing Donsoya

Environment, Embodiment and Perception among the Hunters of Burkina Faso

This is my PhD thesis in Social Anthropology with Visual Media, defended at the University of Manchester in June 2014. It is centred on a group of initiated donso hunters in Burkina Faso. It proposes an ecological approach to their knowledge to make sense of the presence of donso hunters across a diversity of languages, ethnic groups and ecological transformations. I suggest that the knowledge of donso hunters is made of a set of specific relationships with their environment, which differentiate them from other villagers and from uninitiated hunters.

Central to my approach is the assumption that knowledge is not just a set of notions but is enacted in an ecological system that encompasses a non- dualistic individual and his environment – in its human and non-human aspects. This way donsoya encompasses procedural and propositional knowledge, materiality and meaning, enskilment and initiatory knowledge. I have looked at all these dimensions through the lens of apprenticeship, as a focal interest and as a methodological device, through my own initiation and practice of hunting.

The film Kalanda – The Knowledge of the Bush, which accompanies and constitutes part of this thesis, is an audiovisual counterpart to the dissertation. It narrates the apprenticeship providing an overview of the multifaceted knowledge of donsoya, in a collaborative work that involved the filmmaker in the role of student and the hunters in the roles of teachers. I recommend watching the film before approaching the written text.