Healing Horses: therapeutic emplotment and mimesis in human-animal relations

Armina Maria Dinescu, Master’s thesis, Visual Anthropology, Aarhus University, 2016.


On the margins of modern medicine, horses are being used in psychotherapeutic work in North America. The interspecies healing encounters are predicated on a process of therapeutic emplotment which allows the human participants to narrativize their problems together with the horses. In turn, the horses are related to as valid social agents, who can ‘look back’ and respond to the humans in nonverbal, bodily attuned ways. This creates a ‘back-and-forth’ interspecies mimetic interaction: humans acting ‘horse-like’ to communicate to the horses, while, at the same time, interpreting the equines as ‘human-like’ co-therapists. This interspecies mimesis inspires a reflexive emplotment, that allows the participants to regain a sense of control and coherence in their personal narratives. I base my analyses in concrete fieldwork conducted over three months at an equine-assisted psychotherapy farm in Bellingham, WA, USA.

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