Pre-symposium event to the “Exploring the Animal Turn” symposium

On Sunday May 25th, the day before the ”Exploring the Animal Turn” symposium, we will arrange a pre-symposium event in the garden of  The Pufendorf Institute!

The idea of the pre-symposium is to create a social event, where people working within the field of human-animal studies will get a chance to meet and talk under more informal circumstances.

We have a great program for the event (see below), including short presentations by invited speakers, live music, artistic interventions, and lots of good vegan food!

It is all free of charge and you don’t need to sign up in advance!


13.15 Becoming

Artistic investigations by artists Lisa Nyberg, Imri Sandström and EvaMarie Lindahl

14.15 Welcome to the Animal Turn

14.30 Short presentations

Kurtis Boyer (Political Science, Lund University)

Per-Anders Svärd (Political Science, Stockholm University)

David Redmalm (Sociology, Örebro University)

Jenny Strindlöv (Critical Animal Studies, Lund University)

Ingrid Bosseldal (Educational Science, Lund university)

15.30 Coffee and Tea

16.00 Short presentations

Riin Magnus (Semiotics, University of Tartu/Lund University)

Anna Samuelsson (Gender Studies, Uppsala University)

Stella Macheridis (Historical Osteology, Lund University)

Elin Hirsch (Applied Ethology, Swedish Agricultural University)

Adam Boethius (Historical Osteology, Lund University)

17.00 Animal Oppression as the Definition of Humanity: Mastery as Category-Bound Activity

Presentation by Carmen Dell’Aversano (Comparative Literature, University of Pisa)

17.30 Live music by Quartet 168

18.00 Picnic in the garden



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“Humanizing the sign – dehumanizing nature” An afternoon with Jesper Hoffmeyer

What if we change some simple explanatory preferences in the way we understand life processes and integrate dimensions of meaning and experience into scientific views of nature? Such possibility was brought by our invited speaker today, Jesper Hoffmeyer, an eminent ambassador of biosemiotics. This emergent field attempts to integrate the findings of biology and semiotics and proposes a paradigmatic shift in the scientific view of life, demonstrating that semiosis (sign process, including meaning and interpretation) is one of its immanent and intrinsic features. Relationship and interpretation, consciousness, agency or intentionally, and semiotic freedom become some of the crucial concepts to understand the arpeggio of life in the planet.
What does this have to do with The Animal Turn theme? A very great deal, in my view. This paradigm shift entails the possibility of recovering some lost connections in the unison of knowledge, blatant in the open fractions between ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’, ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, rex cogitans and rex extensa, to name some foundational ones. Fractures which incidentally correspond to the standing split between humanities and natural sciences.
Our Animal Turn Theme has, in my view, to address such connections if it wants to reply to its initial question: What kind of knowledges might be produced when the human-animal relation is located right at the core of interdisciplinary inquiry? In other words, we need to create bridges between our disciplinary grounds, and walk towards a comprehensive, holistic view of life in its full complexity. Within our blatant diversity as researchers, we seem to come together on our seeking a new leeway, a new paradigm in which to understand the relation between the human and non-human species. Today we had the opportunity to share the mind of someone who, with great persistence, passion and brilliancy, has been tending a converging field and giving us fertile topsoil. It’s up to us to make our own, unique, seeds to flourish.
Elsa Coimbra
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Annie Potts and Philip Armstrong to Pufendorf!

Today was a big day for the Animal turn-group at the Pufendorf-institute.  This was the day when we had the pleasure to welcome our international guests, Annie Potts and Philip Armstrong, from the Department of English at University of Canterbury, New Zealand. They arrived in Lund last week, but today was the first time they met with (almost) all of us in the animal-studies network.

After a very enjoyable breakfast we joined with some other interested visitors to listen to Philip Armstrong’s presentation: An Odd Worm’: Animals, Agency and Affect in Shakespeare’s Tragedies. In this, Armstrong argued that although no ‘real’ animals seems to have appeared on stage in William Shakespeare’s tragedies, the animals appearing in the authorship should still not be seen as merely symbolic or representational, but rather play a far more active and effectual role than might appear to be the case from our modern perspective. Instead, human-animal studies scholar have in recent years pointed out many of the fascinating ways in which Shakespeare’s animal imagery relates to early modern ideas about, and treatment of, nonhuman animals and nature.

Armstrong’s presentation was much appreciated, and followed by a lively discussion. We are looking forward to many more pleasant and mind-provoking discussions with him and Annie during the spring, and sincerely hope that they will enjoy their stay here at Pufendorf.

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Coming up: Open seminar with Philip Armstrong March 11!

Observe the time: 10-12 Tuesday March 11, at the Pufendorf Institute, Sölvegatan 2.

Welcome to a public lecture-seminar with one of the most prominent scholars on the Animal Studies field:

Philip Armstrong is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Hi is also co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies ( His most recent book, co-authored with Annie Potts and Deidre Brown, is A New Zealand Book of Beasts: Animals in our History, Culture and Everyday Life (Auckland University Press, 2013). Earlier works include What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity (Routledge, 2008), Shakespeare and Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2001), Shakespeare’s Visual Regime (Palgrave, 2000) and, as co-editor, Knowing Animals (Brill, 2007).


An Odd Worm’: Animals, Agency and Affect in Shakespeare’s Tragedies

Shakespeare’s plays are alive with animals – or at least, with references to animals. These have traditionally been read symbolically, although human-animal studies scholars have in recent years pointed out many of the fascinating ways in which Shakespeare’s animal imagery relates to early modern ideas about, and treatment of, nonhuman animals and nature. There are, however, very few moments in Shakespeare’s tragedies when a live animal appears onstage – perhaps only one, or perhaps none at all. Nevertheless, this paper will argue that animals in Shakespeare’s tragedies are not merely symbolic or representational; rather they play a far more active and effectual role in the drama than might appear to be the case from our modern perspective.


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Report from Esther Köhring’s seminar 11th of Feb

Time flies, here are some notes from Esther Köhring’s very rich seminar Animals on Stages last week.

While animals have been performing in circuses and popular shows since ever, they have generally been invited onto the more high brow theater stages mainly to challange the ordinary ”theatre machine”. This practice has increased since the 60s when performance became an important radical artform and the traditional theatre was generally under critique.  For mainstream theatre and film the saying still goes: ”never work with children and animals”.

Animals bring with them to the stage the obvious paradox of being constant flux between materiality and semiocity. The ”meeting” with an animal on stage is of course always – staged. Material surplus is important, but even in performances by Rimini Protokoll where the animals do whatever they want, the framing makes their actions become meaningful in certain ways. The idea about the animal as the ”other” of theatre is therefore problematic, according to Esther: an animal on stage is always part of the theatre discourse.

Equally, the binary of ”real” animals contra ”human incarnations of animals” on the theatre stage doesn’t have to be considered as fundamental. Instead, Esther prefers to engage in what she calls ”speculative taxonomies”, which implies an extreme awareness of categorizations, framings and rhetorics made by herself and others.

One aspect that she is looking at in her project (forthcoming in the form of a dissertation) is the ways in which staged animals function as what Gary Genosko (professor of communication) has called ”machines for theory”. Many of the animal scenes that she is close reading are ones that have been much discussed – for instance Joseph Beuys’ performance with a coyote, ”I like America and America like me” and Jacques Derrida’s scene with his cat in the text ”The Animal that therefore I am”. An important question is why and how these and other scenes become so dense with meaning. How are they framed and what discourses interact?

During the seminar Esther showed and we all discussed clips from Beuys but also from Becketts Play which was inspired by German cognitive scientist Wolfgang Köhler’s early chimpanzee experiments, where he aspired to figure out their potential to reason, by observing them trying to reach some bananas by piling one box on another. Esther pointed out how Beckett’s version of the scenario can be read not only in the traditional way, as an existential drama, but also as a way of surfacing and laying bare the theatricality of Köhler’s experiment in the first place, and his lack of insights in this aspect of his work. This makes Beckett’s play, more than anything else, an inquiry into ”perception of perception”.

We thank Esther and everybody attending for an inspiring afternoon!

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Look out for upcoming seminars and symposium!

Don’t forget to look at our conference page where info has recently been updated. Register to the event at

In our public seminar series we look forward to Esther Köhring rolling in from Würzburg university on the 11th of February. Köhring is working on a phd about animals on the theatre stages and will be showing and analyzing examples from Beckett and Beuys as well as contemporary artists like Xavier le Roy and Antontia Baehr.

Köhring writes:

”In the last years, literary theory and history started to discuss the need of not only welcoming animals as new object for the various disciplines, but as a challenge to the methodology and conception of the disciplines themselves . On the other
hand, theatre studies are (mostly) still stuck in a rather simplistic theory of stage animals, e.g. idealizing them as a disturbing presence: “the other” of theatre. I argue
that animals are not only test-cases for the limits of our ideas of theatre and theatricality. Even more, they are active agents in shaping these, they are theatre’s own, in an aporetic and poïetic way. The seminar will present some methodological ideas and tools for thinking (about) animals on stages. It will focus on performance art from the 1950s to the present, featuring video excerpts of animals on stages – human, non-human, biological, represented, quoted, presented and more.”


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Report from Claire Molloy seminar 28th of Jan

As part of our open seminar series the theme was happy to present Claire Molloy from Edge Hill University, UK to a crowd of around 30 listeners. Claire Molloy is a professor of Film, media, television and digital media and also directing the newly formed the Centre for Human Animal Studies (website soon to be launched). Prof Molloy has published widely in the fields of media and critical animal studies, one of her much read books is Popular Media and Animals.

Her seminar called ”Food, Animal Rights and neoliberal pleasures of consumption” elaborated on the important connection between the growth of the Animal Industrial Complex and the neoliberal ideology of indvidual pleasure.

Using political-economical arguments Molloy started out by convincingly describing the unsustainability of a situation where meat and dairy consumption in average contributes to 24 % of the individual’s environmental impact, while only claiming 6 % of his/her spending. In a few decades we will be 9 billion people on earth, many of having eggs and ham for breakfast! There is currently no effective economic incitament for personal nor structural change of the food system, despite the obvious environmental, not to mention ethical problems. On the contrary, neoliberal economy supports status quo not only by facilitating the expansion of the animal industrial complex. Neoliberal depoliticizing of ”difference”, exploiting it for opening new markets, along with its ideological propaganda for the right to individual pleasure, has also partly managed to erode the notion of collective ethical responsabilities and duties. In Molloys opinion post structuralist theories on pleasure have too easily turned into a cultural relativism, well adjusted to this neoliberal agenda.

Prof Molloy requested a reconnection of pleasure to politics and ethics and discussed how it could be done (and what stubborn patterns tend to remain) via examples from the films Supersize me and Fast Food Nation. She also problematized the (at least in the anglo-world) ongoing mainstreaming of (celebritiy) veganism, arguing that when veganism becomes another private consumer choice, a hobby to find easy pleasure and fullfillment in, it easily gets detatched from its ethical dimension and radical driving force. The risk is that  the long term goal of abolishing the use of animals in food industry disolves and disappears under the horizon.

The talk was followed by a good discussion, and the animal turn crew would like to thank all participants, including Claire Molloy herself, for a  inspiring afternoon. We will keep on networking between our platforms in Ormskirk and Lund!
Amelie Björck

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Welcome to the Animal Turn theme!


On these pages we wish to present the research theme:

Exploring the ”Animal Turn”: Changing perspectives on human-animal relations in science, society and culture

We are happy to invite you to attend our seminars and the upcoming symposium!

Best wishes, the theme members

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