“I fell in love with Carlos the meerkat”: Engagement and detachment in human–animal relations



Relationship, connection, and engagement have emerged as key values in recent studies of human–animal relations. In this article, I call for a reexamination of the productive aspects of detachment. I trace ethnographically the management of everyday relations between biologists and the Kalahari meerkats they study, and I follow the animals’ transformation as subjects of knowledge and engagement when they become the stars of an internationally popular, televised animal soap opera. I argue that treating detachment and engagement as polar opposites is unhelpful both in this ethnographic case and, more broadly, in anthropological discussions of ethics and knowledge making. [human–animal relations, science, media, ethics, engagement, detachment]