‘Animals in History: Studying the Not So Human Past’

Conference sponsored by the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC and the University of Cologne

May 19-21, 2005 in Cologne, Germany

Conveners: Dorothee Brantz (GHI Washington, University of Cologne) Christof Mauch (GHI Washington, University of Cologne)

‘Why look at animals?’ John Berger asked twenty-five years ago. Animals have been a presence in the everyday life of humans throughout the ages, for example, as aids to agricultural labor, as sources of food and other raw materials, as pets or objects of amusement, as involuntary subjects in scientific and medical experimentation, hunting and warfare. Historians have traditionally given short shrift to the role of animals in shaping human culture and society, but in recent years scholars have begun to pay closer attention to the place of animals in history. The time is ripe to rephrase Berger’s question and ask not simply why but also how historians can address the history of animals.

This conference wants to bring together a group of scholars to present their work and to engage in discussions of the challenges connected with the history of animals. While each panel will center on particular case studies, the goal of the conference is to develop common themes and questions about what a more animal-centered perspective can add to historical scholarship and our concrete understanding of the past. What are the major methodological and theoretical questions that arise from looking at animals? Does this perspective enable us to make use of different types of historical materials or allow us to read traditional sources in a new way? What new possibilities emerge with regard to the cross-cultivation of historical subfields such as social, cultural, environmental history, the history of technology and medicine? And finally, does a more animal-centered history have a purpose that reaches beyond mere academic endeavors?

Possible topics include, but are not limited to the following: -debates about animal welfare and the emergence of animal rights -hunting and imagining wild beasts -the emergence of zoos, circuses, and other animal attractions -the history of vivisection, animal experimentation and the production of scientific and medical knowledge, including the rise of veterinary medicine -the culture and practice of pet keeping -animals in literature, art, and film -animals in agriculture and the production of the material world -the industrialization of animal bodies -technology and the animal machine -animals and the conduct of war -theorizing the place of animals in history

While preference will be given to proposals that focus on Europe and North America in the modern era, we shall also consider other time periods and geographic regions since one of the strengths of this kind of history is its ability to transgress national borders, traditional chronologies, and disciplinary boundaries.

Please send a one-page proposal, short CV, and list of relevant publications to Bärbel Thomas at [email protected] or send a fax to the German Historical Institute (202-483-3430) by October 31, 2004. The conference will take place in Cologne, Germany. The cost of travel and accommodations will be covered by the GHI. The conference language will be English. We are planning to publish a collection of essays based upon the conference.