Animals and Epidemics in Historical Perspective

2022 Animals and Epidemics in Historical Perspective

Conference Animals and Epidemics in Historical Perspective


(Hybrid) International Conference, Berlin March 30 – April 1, 2022


The current debates about the origins and spread of COVID-19 illustrate how profoundly the lives of non-human animals and humans are intertwined. In a world that has reached a problematic intensity of anthropogenic influence on the ecological system, these entanglements are both matters of fact and concern.  Whether bats, cats or mink are seen as causes or victims of the current global crisis, these entanglements raise the question of how the role of animals in the outbreak of past and present epidemics can be adequately narrated without falling back into a one-sided blame game or ignoring the agency of the animals involved. At the same time, epidemics and pandemics offer a lens for methodological reflections and empirical investigations into the historically variable relationships between non-humans and humans.

The conference will highlight the historically transformative power of pandemics and ask how pandemic events have affected the view on nature, animals and human cultures. It will pay special attention to the biopolitical practices and spatial impacts related to animals in epidemics and to the emergence of narrative tropes with, for example, racial and colonialist connotations. Taking cues from an animal studies perspective, it will furthermore discuss the specific materiality of diseases and what this means for scientific research.

The interdisciplinary conference brings together zoologists, historians of science and medicine, ethnographers and human-animal scholars to explore the potentials of a multispecies approach to assessing cultural, societal, epistemological and bodily vulnerabilities of societies in the past caused by epidemics.


Tagungsbericht auf H-Soz-Kult: