Beekeeping expertise as situated knowing in precarious multispecies livelihoods

Hyvärinen, Pieta

In this article I analyse beekeeping expertise as situated knowing in the precarious conditions of multispecies livelihoods. Beekeeping is knowledge-intensive: distinct expertise is required to keep colonies alive and thriving, to produce honey, and to support pollination – that is, to maintain livelihoods. The conditions in which beekeeping expertise is developed and enacted are precarious due to close entanglements with ultimately unintelligible non-human others and their changing habitats. Using ethnographic and interview data collected among urban beekeepers in Finland, I first describe the precariousness embedded in beekeeping as sharing lifeworlds and becoming with non-human others, particularly in an epoch characterized by severe environmental disturbances. Second, I analyse learning and practising beekeeping as the development and enactment of beekeeping expertise as situated ways of knowing. From beekeeping courses, books, and social relationships, beekeepers learn not only the necessary skills but also ways of knowing that value diversity and variability. By practising and observing in the hive yard, they further learn to be affected by bees and their multispecies habitats, attuning their practices and perceptions in accordance with them. Beekeeping expertise therefore entails ways of knowing that are local, relational, practical, and open to changes and even surprises, recognising the incompleteness of knowledge as well as the unprecedented agency of non-human others. Such situated knowing enables beekeepers to acknowledge and act upon the complex interdependencies of multispecies livelihoods in changing socio-ecological conditions.

Suggested citation

Hyvärinen, Pieta 2019 "Beekeeping expertise as situated knowing in precarious multispecies
livelihoods." Sosiologia 59(4): 365–381.