European Summer School Interspecies Relationality

Public Program: 2019 European Summer School Interspecies Relationality

International Summer School
28 July - 3 August 2019, University of Kassel, Germany
Moritzstrasse 18 (Campus Center)
Lecture Theatre 4

"Relationality" has been a central approach to the development of Human-Animal Studies as a field of academic inquiry. Therein, the reevaluation of human-animal relations has so far followed primarily an assessment of the individual entities in a relation, followed by a comparison that establishes corresponding or differing capacities, or the effects one has on the other. More than looking at the relation as such, relationality follows here as a consequence a comparative approach, from which insights on the relationship are deduced.

ESSIR aims at further refining and expanding relationality as a methodological lens for HAS by focusing on interspecies relationality and making the relation our analytical priority. The focus, then, becomes studying the interrelation and interdependency itself, as well as the mutual coproduction, influencing and curtailing of the entities in a relation, and thus to always think of entities within and through their relations to others. In addition to this conceptual refinement of relationality, we also call for explicitly expanding the perspective of relationality as well by asking about relations between nonhuman animals, of the same species, across different species, and between groups of animals.

All lectures take place in the Campus Center, lecture theater 4, University of Kassel (Moritzstr. 18). The film screenig will happen at Schlachthof, Mombachstr. 10-12, Kassel.

(Kopie 1)

Sunday, 28 July 2019


  • 17:00 - 18:00    Welcome and orientation
    Mieke Roscher and André Krebber, University of Kassel, GER & Margo DeMello and Ken Shapiro, Animals & Society Institute, USA
  • 8:00 - 19:30     Opening lecture: Affectively speaking: anthropomorphism and the animals who talk Claire Parkinson, Edge Hill University, UK


Monday, 29 July 2019


  • 14:00 - 15:00 Public lecture: Liminanimals: Celebrity chihuahuas, presidential pets and riding school horses
    David Redmalm, Uppsala University, SWE
  • 15:00 - 15:15 Coffee break
  • 15:15 - 16:15 Public lecture: How to relate in multispecies medicine?
    Kerstin Weich, University for Veterinary Medicine Vienna, AUT


Tuesday, 30 July 2019


  • 14:00 - 15:00 Public lecture: The violence of connectivity: Schizoanalysis and the problem of Interspecies Relationality
    Helena Pedersen, University of Gothenburg, SWE


Wednesday, 31 July 2019


  • 14:00 - 15:00 Public lecture: Posthumanist education, or: on the consumption of animal subjectivity Reingard Spannring, University of Innsbruck, AUT
  • 15:00 - 15:15 Coffee break
  • 15:15 - 16:15 Public lecture: Species of the Human: Alice Walker's vision of kinship Robert McKay, University of Sheffield, UK
  • 19:00 - 21:00 Public film screening: Okja
    with an introduction by Claire Parkinson, followed by discussion


Friday, 2 August 2019


  • 9:45 - 11:15 Public lecture: Is violence a relation?
    Dinesh Wadiwel, University of Sydney, AUS
  • 14:00 - 15:00 Public lecture: Meeting in the Contact Zone. The interactive co-constitution and power relations of Interspecies Relationality
    Mechthild Bereswill, University of Kassel, GER

Abstracts & Bios

Bodies affect and are affected, and this focus has proved to be an especially important 'turn' for those interested in human-animal relations not least because affect undoes the centrality of the rational, speaking human subject that in traditional binaries is opposed to the animal object. The affective turn enables an acknowledgement that humans and other animals are affected by one another, a relationality that posits a different type of connection between interacting entities. In terms of affective engagement, I am interested in how affect is mediated and culturally produced and how discourses shape affective responses. In the mediated encounter, anthropomorphism can reproduce an animal's body as a site of affect, an opportunity for cross-species intersubjectivity and an imaginative shift to a shared embodied experience. However, the relationality of such an imaginative shift must be overlaid with the economic realities of cultural production. The affective relations of anthropomorphism draw attention to the affective labour that other animals do, and it is crucial that we recognise how that impacts on the lived material lives of real nonhuman animals. In this talk I explore how anthropomorphism figures in the entanglement of neoliberal economics and affective management and where it - as is the case with other forms of affective labour - acts as a salve for human anxieties under the rubric of neoliberal precarity. In this paper I consider the cultural representation of talking animals as multiple entangled sites of anthropomorphism.

Claire Parkinson is Professor of Film, Television and Digital Media and Co-Director of Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS) at Edge Hill University, UK. Her research interests include media, film and Critical Animal Studies; sustainable consumption; ecomedia; American cinema; activism; and, film and politics. Her publications (as Claire Molloy) include the books Popular Media and Animals (2011) and Memento (2010) and the edited collections Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics (2016), American Independent Cinema: Indie, Indiewood and Beyond (2012) and Beyond Human: From Animality to Transhumanism (2012).

In this lecture sociologist David Redmalm will talk about companion animals and their liminal status in human society. He will show how thinking with companion animals can challenge ingrained stereotypical ideas about the distinction between nature and culture, and how this distinction shapes interspecies relationality. To show how "liminanimals" can enable a more nuanced understanding of what we think of as nature and culture, David Redmalm will draw on a number of examples from his own research: Chihuahuas and their symbolic and material role in Western society, the media narrative of Obama family's dog Bo Obama, and the disciplining of human and equine bodies in riding schools.

David Redmalm is a researcher at Uppsala University and senior lecturer at Mälardalen University. His work on the distinction between humans and other animals has been published in journals such as The Sociological Review, Organization, and Emotion Space and Society, and in a number of anthologies of which the latest is Death Matters: Cultural Sociology of Mortal Life (edited by Tora Holmberg, Annika Jonsson and Fredrik Palm).

The concept of multispecies medicine allows for a re-thinking of the institutional division of the medical field in veterinary and human medicine. In my talk, I focus on common and popular ways of framing and interpreting the relation between the "two medicines." In addition to the well-known hierarchical conceptualisations, which suggest a (scientific, moral, economic...) leadership of human medicine, the distinction between veterinary and human medicine serves as a means for the definition of 'medicine' itself. Drawing on Derrida and Heinrich, I would like to discuss alternative ways of relating 'animal medicine' with 'human medicine.'

Kerstin Weich has been working in the Unit Ethics and Human-Animal Studies at the Messerli Research Institute as PhD-candidate and a scientific coordinator in the research project "Vethics for Vets - Ethics for veterinary officers" since 2012. She studied Modern German Literature, Philosophy and Communication Science at the TU Dresden and at Freie Universität Berlin. Additionally, she graduated in Veterinary Medicine from Freie Universität Berlin. From 2009 she has been an Ethicist in the Animal Experiments Committee of Berlin. She worked as a freelance veterinarian (small animals) and was engaged as a freelancer in research and teaching. In 2012, she won the Young Scholar Award of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine for an essay on the concept of health in veterinary medicine.

In many posthumanist and new-materialist strands of human-animal studies, interspecies entanglement is not only taken for granted as an ontological given, but, arguably, also fetishized as an ethically desirable, mutually beneficial and foundational dimension of co-habitation on Earth. This paper contests this argument in two ways: First, drawing on critical social, educational and cultural theorists such as Sarah Franklin, Clayton Pierce and Nicole Shukin, I discuss different aspects of critique of interspecies entanglement and relationality with a focus on Patricia MacCormack's "neo-abolitionist" position as a possible approach to posthuman ethics; and second, by introducing Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalytic ontology and reflecting on its implications for studies of human-animal relationships. Following MacCormack, the main argument I explore in this paper is that interspecies relationality must be understood as inherently embedded within multiple forms of coercion and violence enacted by humans upon other animals, but also that there may be ways of refusing this "violence of connectivity" which we, so far, haven't pursued seriously enough.

Helena Pedersen is Associate Professor in Education and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies, University of Gothenburg. Her research and teaching has won several awards and focuses on critical animal studies and critical animal pedagogies, critical theory, education for sustainable development, educational philosophy, and posthumanist theory and methods. She is author of Schizoanalysis and Animal Science Education (Bloomsbury, 2019) and Animals in Schools: Processes and Strategies in Human-Animal Education (Purdue University Press, 2010). Helena is Co-editor of the Critical Animal Studies book series (Brill) and serves on the editorial board of Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives. She was on the Scientific Committee of the research theme "Exploring 'the Animal Turn': Changing perspectives on human-animal relations in science, society and culture", funded by the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies at Lund University 2013-14. She is also co-founder of the network GU-CAS: University of Gothenburg's Network for Critical Animal Studies in the Anthropocene. For more information, see Helena's website:

This presentation starts from the assumption that humans and nonhumans share socio-cognitive capacities and needs including the ability to make subjective experiences. Starting with the Frankfurt School's proposition that the subjection of nonhuman animals necessitates the subjection of the human's animality, the presentation explores how education and training undermine the possibility of subjectivity and meaningful interspecies relationships.

Reingard Spannring studied sociology at the University of Vienna and the University of Sussex. Since 2006 she works at the Institute for Educational Science at the University of Innsbruck as researcher and lecturer. Her main areas of research are Critical Animal Studies, environmental education research, philosophy of education and theories of learning.

In this talk, I will return to the writing of the American novelist and social activist Alice Walker, in particular her novel The Temple of My Familiar (1989) and the provocative and committed non-fiction essays "Everything Is a Human Being" (1983) "Am I Blue?" (1986) and "Why Did the Balinese Chicken Cross the Road?" (1987) that presage it. These and other writings ensured that Walker was, without doubt, the highest-profile writer of literature to be thinking seriously about kinship with animals in the late 1990s, when "animal studies" was initially developing. And yet I say "return" because Walker is now rarely if ever engaged as a thinker on these questions. In part, I will suggest, this is because of the dearth of interest, until recently in animal studies, in the complex and difficult inter-relation of the issues of species, race, animality and blackness-and the intersection of these with issues of gender. This is precisely the zone of interspecies relationality in which Walker works. This paper revisits Walker's writing in the context of recent scholarship in critical race studies-by thinkers such as Benedicte Boisseron, Claire Jean Kim, Lindgren Johnson and Alexander Weheliye-that reads across the tense and conflicted politics, moralities, histories and representational complexities of species, gender and race. In particular, my interest is not so much showing how Walker articulates what Kim calls a "multi-optic critique" of the intersecting institutions of racism, speciesism and sexism; rather, I aim to delineate the affirmative character of other-than-human "familiarity" that Walker proposes, in pains-taking dissidence against a species-exceptionalist notion of humanity.

Robert McKay teaches literature, film and critical theory at the University of Sheffield, where he is co-director of the Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre. His research focuses on the on the politics of species in modern and contemporary literature and film. Most recently, he has published an essay about eating, philosophy and being other than human, called A Vegan Form of Life, to the book Thinking Veganism in Literature and Culture (Palgrave, 2018), and an essay on the pro-animal aesthetics of the writer Brigid Brophy in Contemporary Women's Writing. He is the co-author (with the Animal Studies Group) of Killing Animals (Illinois UP, 2006) and co-editor of Against Value in the Arts and Education (Rowman and Littlefield in 2016) and Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic (Wales UP, 2017). He is series co-editor for Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature and Associate Editor (Literature) for Society & Animals. He is currently working on two projects: a study on the place of animal ethics in American culture, politics and law 1930-1960 and a monograph titled Animal Form: The Politics of Species in Contemporary Literature.

Relational approaches to the ethics of politics of human animal interactions are increasingly favoured as an analytic frame in animal studies and post humanities. While there are strong arguments for such a framing, there are challenges when relational approaches are applied to forms of domination and coercion. This is because acts of violence refuse the forms of reciprocity that are central to peaceable relations; as such relationships of violence might easily be understood as non-relations or failed relations. This instability in how violence is understood as a relation haunts human animal interactions, since many, if not most, human relationships with animals involve overt forms of violence.

This paper seeks to philosophically unpack violence as a relation through an analysis Jacques Derrida's examination of generosity and gift giving. My argument is that violence is understandable as a relation only where we simultaneously provide a robust account of "resistance", and understand how the interplay between violence and resistance produce social and political realities for animals.

Dinesh Wadiwel is a senior lecturer in human rights and socio-legal studies at The University of Sydney, with a background in social and political theory. He is author of the monograph The War against Animals (Brill 2015) and co-editor with Matthew Chrulew of the collection Foucault and Animals (Brill 2016). Dinesh is co-convener of the Human Animal Research Network (HARN) at The University of Sydney.

Mechthild Bereswill is Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Kassel. Her research fields include feminist methodologies, gender studies, masculinity studies, sociology of social problems, and qualitative methodologies. She is currently preparing a research project on assistant and therapy dogs