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Personal profile


Dr Natasha Fijn is Director of the Australian National University’s Mongolia Institute. She has been awarded a mid-career ARC Future Fellowship to enable her to conduct research on 'A Multi-species Anthropological Approach to Influenza' (2022-2026), while she is also part of an ARC Discovery team, focussing on the transfer of Mongolian medicine and healing knowledge amongst the herding community.

As an ethnographic researcher and observational filmmaker, she has conducted extensive field research in remote places, including the Khangai Mountains of Mongolia and Arnhem Land in northern Australia. She focusses particularly on multispecies ethnography, including more-than-human sociality and concepts of domestication.

Natasha was awarded a Fejos Fellowship in Ethnographic Film from the Wenner-Gren Foundation to make a documentary ‘Two Seasons: multispecies medicine in Mongolia’ during 2017. She was a Research Fellow as part of ‘Domestication in the Era of the Anthropocene’ team based at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Oslo in 2016. Earlier, she held a College of the Arts and Social Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the ANU (2011-2014), which included the production of the film 'Yolngu Homeland' (2015). Her influential book, ‘Living with Herds: human-animal coexistence in Mongolia’ was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.

Natasha has edited a number of books and special journal issues, including two themed journal issues and a special section with a focus on visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking. In 2020 she edited two special issues, one on multi-species anthropology in the Inner Asia journal and another on sensory anthropology in The Australian Journal of Anthropology. Natasha is also a founding committee member of Plumwood, a conservation organisation acting as steward for the land and biocultural heritage aspects on Plumwood Mountain in New South Wales.

Research interests

Visual anthropology, sensory anthropology, observational filmmaking, animal studies, ecological humanities, environmental anthropology, animal domestication, Mongolia, Inner Asia, Yolngu, Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, biocultural heritage, Ethnoveterinary medicine, Mongolian medicine, multispecies ethnography

Researcher's projects

A Multispecies Anthropological Approach to Influenza

(Field-based research in Mongolia, 2022-2026)

Influenza-type infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus pandemic, pose a considerable threat to humanity, as well as to both domestic and wild animals. Nomadic herding communities have lived with animals and alongside deadly zoonotic diseases for thousands of years through daily contact with herd animals. Horses can become infected by different kinds of influenza, particularly ‘horse flu’ (H7N7). This project aims to address a significant gap in our knowledge about differing cultural perceptions towards influenza and other zoonotic diseases that can cross between species. There is a paucity of knowledge surrounding the ecological connections between respiratory viruses and other species. My intention is to apply a multispecies anthropological approach to infectious disease and to promote eco-health through an attunement to the interconnections between species. This will involve an exploration into how Mongolian herding families approach symptoms, prevention and treatment of respiratory viral infections, particularly influenza, in both themselves and other mammals. One important aspect of the research will be to highlight the importance of Mongolian nomadic pastoral knowledge, particularly in relation to the biocultural diversity of specific mammals, both domestic and wild, such as equids, camelids and canines.

Mongolian Medicine: the transfer of different modes of multispecies knowledge

(Field-based research in Mongolia, 2016-2022)

Mongolian nomadic pastoralists have developed unique forms of medical knowledge: taking the human family, the extended family of herd animals, the surrounding extreme climatic conditions, seasons and ecology as a basis. A similar kind of holistic way of treating illness and maintaining health has been practiced in many cultures around the world for long time, but has largely been lost due to cultural disruptions between generations and the advent of biomedical science. The Mongolian plateau is one of the few places where healers and practitioners still practice medicine across species with pluralistic, inclusive forms of knowledge. A nomadic pastoral lifestyle not only provides herding families with a wealth of practical experience relating to domestic animals and extreme environmental conditions, but also exposes them to zoonotic diseases from living with animals in close proximity, such as the plague, anthrax, brucellosis, tick-borne diseases and rabies. Across different kinds of Mongolian medicine, including nomadic, shamanic and Buddhist medical frameworks there is a pluralistic approach to medicine, which includes the integration of biomedicine. As a team on an ARC Discovery project (2019-2022) we ask: how is/was medicinal knowledge transmitted and retained across these different philosophical and conceptual paradigms?

Encountering Animals: connections between Yolngu and significant animals in Arnhem Land

(Field-based research in Northern Australia, 2011-2014)

Over millennia, Aboriginal Australians from Arnhem Land have lived in distinctive ways with animals, developing intertwined histories during an exceptionally long period of engagement.  Northeast Arnhem Land is home to Yolngu, who live in remote communities and on country that is remarkably ecologically intact in comparison with other parts of coastal Australia.  The 'Encountering Animals' project encompassed observational filmmaking and the use of other visual material as research tools. Natasha investigated social, cultural and ecological relationships between individual Yolngu and significant animals, such as the crocodile, honeybee, dog/dingo and snake. One outcome of the project was a documentary, Yolngu Homeland: living with ancestral beings' (2016, 58 mins). Ultimately the intention was to provide a greater insight into Yolngu world view with regard to animals. 




PhD Anthropology (ANU), PG Dip Natural History Film and Communication (Otago), MSc Ethology (hons), BSc Zoology and Ecology (Canterbury)

Expertise Areas

  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Ecological anthropology
  • Animal domestication
  • Animal studies
  • Studies of Asian Society
  • Visual anthropology
  • Inner Asia
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Visual Cultures
  • Observational filmmaking
  • Human-animal studies
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Knowledge
  • Conservation and Biodiversity


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