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V Are Animals Cultural Brokers?

Conceived and conducted by: Silke Förschler (LOEWE-Research Group "Tier-Mensch-Gesellschaft", Projekt A3 "Insekten, Reptilien, Fische. Ästhetische Ordnungen und wissenschaftliche Praktiken der Académie des sciences und der Royal Society (1660–1750)", Universität Kassel) and Stephanie Zehnle (DFG-Research Group „Gewaltgemeinschaften“, Research Unit "Leopardenmänner. Ein translokales Gewaltphänomen in der kolonialen Phase Afrikas (Sierra Leone/Liberia 1880-1950)", Universität Kassel)

Individual animals and contemporary breeds have a history that differs in master narratives. This workshop is aimed at bringing together (inter)disciplinary issues of the Human-Animal Studies with specific challenges posed by transcultural entanglements of the past and present. It starts with basic questions regarding the cultural dimension of being animal and being with animals: How are trans-species relationships shaped by different cultures? How do new cultures evolve through contacts between human and non-human animals? Many ethologists agree that animals have their own cultures in accordance with different population habits. Drawing from such results in natural sciences, we, as cultural scientist, must start to reconsider human-animal relations as cross-cultural encounters. We will also have to discuss whether the concept of “culture” lying underneath different disciplinary approaches is congruent. Moreover, we may have to redefine “culture” among humanities in order to include non-human animals appropriately.

As our next step, we will examine and compare the active roles that animals have played in processes of cultural transfer: How did animals confront individual humans or societies with certain cultural practices and mentalities of which those animals were part of? Animals brought together different farming cultures, different hunting or pest control practices, and methods of using their meat and fur. Are animals only cultural brokers between human cultures, or, do they negotiate between their ‘animal’ culture and the human world? This leads us to questions of available historical sources, eth(n)ographic data and all the various forms of animal agency being represented in human-made documents. Are such animal representations records of transcultural encounters? Our workshop seeks to challenge traditional scientific certainties by discussing animals as multilayer cultural brokers.




The selected participants are:

Vincent Leblan

Frederike Middelhoff

Deborah Nadal

Shaheed Tayob

Antonia Ulrich