Major Themes

Intertwined Pathways: Animals and Human Histories – ANIMAL’S AGENCY – ANIMALS IN HUMAN RECORDS
Session code
Date Time
Monday, August 22nd / 14.00-17.30
Regina Horta Duarte
CK Zamek, Sala Wielka

Unlike human societies, studied in their permanent becoming, animals played a minor role in past historic narratives. The historian Marc Bloch had already set humankind as the boundary of historical interest, likening the historian to “l’ogre de la legend. Là òu il flaire la chair humaine, il sait que là est son gibier” (Bloch, 1952).
In spite of some pioneer work (Darnton, Thomas, Ritvo, Delort), the blossoming of animal history happened mostly from the 1990s, in a truly ‘animal turn’ with a growing number of publications and theoretical challenges. History is made also by animals, and they played a key role in the unfolding of several historical processes (Nance, 2016, 5). Animal history does not intend to anthropomorphize animals; instead, locates their leading role in the effects and outcomes of very specific actions, devoid of intention, individuality or identity (self) (Shaw, 2013, 7). The coexistence with animals has been marked all too often by violence, but also by alliance, and has permeated world history (Walker, 2016).
Historians interested in animal history must be open to interdisciplinary approaches. They also must be clever enough to track them in archives filled with documents produced, gathered and stored by humans.
Such efforts do not mean to devalue human history, for they redimension our identity and the notions about who we are. The intertwining of non-human animals and human societies opens up new historical outlooks. If, as Bloch stated, the historian must be a good hunter in order to satisfy her hunger for knowledge, she now needs to learn that there is much more to sniff than human flesh.