Wednesday, December 05, 2012

CFP/CFA: Living with Animals (Eastern Kentucky University, March 2013)

Sorry for my blog-absence. Too many pots on the stove. Perhaps some of you might be interested in the CFP (or abstracts) below, or know of someone who would be. I'll be presenting something on genetic modification as a means of reducing suffering in livestock (and why, e.g., Shriver's proposal strikes me as wrong-headed).


“Living with Animals,” including the subthemes, “Teaching with Animals” and “Living with Horses.”

This conference has special relevance to the venue. Eastern Kentucky University, located in Richmond just south of Lexington, ‘The Horse Capital of the World’, began offering the first undergraduate degree in Animal Studies in 2010.

A three-day conference: March 21-23, 2013
Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY

Margo DeMello/Francine Dolins/Ken Shapiro/Kari Weil

Dr. Robert Mitchell and Julia Schlosser

LIVING WITH ANIMALS: Many of us enjoy our lives with animals. We live with them in diverse ways: they are our friends, our enemies, our food, our materials, our helpmates, and our co-inhabitants of the planet. They invade our fields and mythologies, and we invade their habitats and lifeways. They are pervasive in our history, artworks, language and literature. News media contain innumerable references to animals every day: pets unintentionally euthanized, smart and even sexy bonobos, human-killing bears and chimp-saving humans, pigs who save their owners, tigers who maul people who are seeking oneness with them, and ridiculous cat activities swarm YouTube, Fox News, and more intellectual media such as the New York Times. Animals fascinate us. Yet the consequences of our collective actions do not always bode well for animals, whose lives and deaths depend on us. Many studies have concluded, without irony, that the myriad dangers posed to endangered species and the global environment would disappear immediately if human animals ceased to occupy space with nonhuman animals: Humans are truly the “elephant in the room” in any discussion of conservation.

During this conference, we propose to examine our interactions with animals, the ways we live with them and they live with us, the ways they live and die, and the ways that our decisions affect their lives and deaths, as well as practical solutions and philosophical/ethical issues surrounding our lives with animals. We will also examine the ways that literature, art, film, science, and popular culture represent human-animal relationships and the lives and deaths of animals, and the implications of these mediated visions. Dr. Ken Shapiro, cofounder of the Animals & Society Institute, and Dr. Francine Dolins, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, will be keynote speakers. Dr. Shapiro will present an overview of the Animal Studies field and its relationships to the animal protection movement. Dr. Dolins studies behavioral ecology and cognitive processes in non-human primates. Her research mainly investigates spatial cognition and navigational behavior, in addition to decisionmaking processing in spatial behavior. She has conducted fieldwork in Madagascar, Costa Rica and Peru.

TEACHING WITH ANIMALS: In 2005, the “Animals in History” conference held in Cologne, Germany, concluded with a vibrant discussion about the future of the academic discipline of Human/Animals studies. Many participants argued for the continued existence of Animal Studies as an interdisciplinary endeavor. Since that time, courses containing animal subject matter have proliferated across academia. The H-Animal Syllabus Exchange has been a popular on-line resource for faculty since 2006. In 2010, Eastern Kentucky University premiered the first interdisciplinary baccalaureate degree in Animal Studies; other universities have had Anthrozoology degrees, or specializations within Sociology or Psychology. Since the Animal Studies major appeared, EKU has also developed a “Humans, Horses & Health” minor. Bark magazine (Sept. 2012) featured an article on the inclusion of canine subject matter in a variety of curricula. What then are the current issues facing faculty teaching animal subject matter across the disciplines? Is an interdisciplinary approach practical and beneficial? What strategies have you used to convey animal-centric information to your students? How have you navigated the politics of academia to find a “home” for your Animal Studies course? Papers from a diversity of perspectives are sought which discuss experiences teaching animal subject matter, and we hope participants will bring discussion questions about teaching Animal Studies. Anthropologist Dr. Margo DeMello (author of Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies) will be the keynote speaker anchoring the Friday session devoted to teaching animal subject matter. Related activities will include breakout discussion sessions, a voluntary syllabus swap, and a larger discussion session debating the benefits and practicalities of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching animal subject matter. Dr. DeMello is the President and Executive Director of House Rabbit Society, an international rabbit advocacy organization, and the Program Director for Human-Animal Studies at Animals & Society Institute. Her latest book Speaking for Animals: Animal Autobiographical Writing will be out in fall, 2012.

LIVING WITH HORSES: The horse holds a unique place among domesticated animals. Whether as food source or beasts of burden; as objects of worship, sacrifice or study; as tools in science, therapy or agriculture; or as traveling, sporting or battle workers, horses have influenced human societies since the two species came together. Within these interfaces, horses are large, potentially dangerous beings with whom humans can and do develop deep and often reciprocal relationships. The Thursday session focuses on the following questions: How is it that humans and horses have lived together in the ways they have? What makes horses what they are? How do humans conceive of their uses and value across cultures, and how do these conceptions factor into their use and treatment? The session takes an inclusive, multidisciplinary animal studies approach, and seeks presentations from across the sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, and applied fields. Potential topics include but are not limited to: equestrianism and equestrian sport; equine psychology, sociality and culture; human-horse bonding; perceptions and representations of horses in various human cultures and subcultures, past and present; changing paradigms of training and schooling; considerations of equine agency, rights and welfare; and the ethical implications of the human-horse relationship. The session chair, Dr. Gala Argent, teaches the course “Horse” for EKU’s Animal Studies major and Humans, Horses and Health minor. Our Thursday keynote speaker will be University Professor of Letters at Wesleyan University, Dr. Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) whose current project is tentatively titled, ‘The Most Beautiful Conquest of Man’ (sic): Horses, Gender and the Conquest of Animal Nature in Nineteenth-Century France.

Please send 200-300 word abstracts and CV to Dr. Robert Mitchell, either by email:; or mail (Department of Psychology, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, 40475, USA) by December 15th, 2012. We are open to receiving late submissions, but we will begin making decisions by the end of December. Individual papers 20 minutes. Panels of up to 3 speakers are welcome. Selected speakers will be notified via email by January 7, 2013.

CONFERENCE WEBPAGE: You can also email Julia Schlosser with questions:
After Dec. 10 the updated web page can be found at

CONFERENCE LOCATION: Eastern Kentucky University is located in historic Richmond, Kentucky, including many areas of historic and scenic interest. Fort Boonesborough State Park, birthplace of Kentucky, is located 12 miles to the north, and Civil War and many other historical sites are nearby. The university is located just south of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass Region, internationally recognized for its horse culture. See for more information.

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