By appointment via e-mail

DFG Project "Animals as Companions. Animal-human relationships between liveliness and standardization".

Animals are part of society. They are fought as intruders in human living environments or exhibited for admiration in zoos. They are bred, slaughtered, and eaten-or treated as family members and intimate friends. Commonly declared "pets," these companion animals can now be found in every second German household. They receive exclusive treatment, are named and loved. Differentiated consumer and service markets have established themselves around their care, generating billions in annual sales in Germany. Despite this obvious social relevance of companion animals, sociology has so far kept its distance and taken up the topic only selectively. It concentrates on certain animal species and presupposes the status of animals as companions. What remains open, however, is what constitutes the special quality of these interspecies relationships and why which animals attain companion status in the first place. The project closes these research gaps with a qualitative survey design. Owners of different animal species are accompanied through different relationship phases and interviewed about acquisition motives, design and interpretations. In order to capture factors influencing companion relationships as well as their dynamics of change, the project also surveys animal-related services and the role of artifacts. Here, triadic figurations emerge, encompassing living beings and things, which can provide information about the extent to which motives for keeping animals are in tension with concrete ways of dealing with them. On the one hand, the acquisition of animals is linked to the need for originality and naturalness; on the other hand, tendencies towards the standardization of ways of keeping animals, a standardization of forms of relationships, and an increasing reification of animals cannot be ignored. With this search direction, the project moves into the center of sociological debates on hybrid interspecies relations and, in contrast to research on the artificial, can contribute empirical findings on the determinants of the living. Project Management: Prof. Dr. Kerstin Jürgens Project editing and information:

Is there life on earth? Animal-Human Relations and the Search for Liveliness

Contemporary societies are not only characterized by comprehensive processes of technologization and digitalization that follow capitalistic logic. In face of climate change and global geopolitical crises, return to alternative ways of living is also taking place. Possibilities of a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with other species and other non-human actors and beings are discussed and explored. Furthermore, more and more people, especially in Western societies, are choosing to keep animals and share their lives with them.

The question of why this is so is controversial in research. Therefore, in the DFG-funded project "Animals as Companions" (project number 443785427), we interview animal keepers and animal service providers on this topic, among others, and conduct field observations. Building upon the research project, in my habilitation project I explore in an in-depth analysis the meaning of liveliness in the animal-human relationships. In light of the empirical insights, the goal is a conception of liveliness that enriches current sociological debates and discourses in the topic area.