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Laboratory Animal (Im)mobilities: Relocating Pasts and Presents of Biomedical Experimentation

Over the last decade or so, geographers, anthropologists and historians have begun to address ways the movement of animals (and the prevention of such movement) intersects with human culture. Investigation of such themes as the role of flight and migration in hunting and scientific observation, the enrolment of animals in European colonization projects, tensions and alliances between animals and people in anti- and post-colonial settings, and the alteration of animal movements through large-scale infrastructure projects has produced a rich set of resource for thinking about the importance of animal mobility (and its confinement) in the constitution of contemporary nature-cultures. (See below for an indicative list of literature along these lines).

Building on these and similar studies, this one-day workshop will consider ways in which animals mobilise and are (im)mobilised within contemporary cultures of biomedical experimentation (Peres & Roe, 2022; Leonelli, Kirk and Myelnikov, 2023). Our goal is to create a ‘contact zone’ or site for exchange between scholars concerned with animals, histories of animals, histories of biomedicine, and (bio)medical humanities (broadly construed).

The workshop thereby aims to contribute to the conceptualization of experimental biomedical science as a set of industries and practices constituted by and through animal (im)mobilization. Confirmed speakers include Robert Kirk and Tone Druglitrø.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers centered on laboratory animals’ movements and/or the ways such movements have been interrupted over time. Suggested themes include (but are by no means limited to):

  • movements of animals between ‘wild’ habitats and laboratories and cages;
  • unruly laboratory animal behaviours (escapes, resistances)
  • studies addressing locomotive appendages, reflex responses, and environmental prompts for activity;
  • practices of confinement (e.g. in cages or via experimental apparatuses);
  • strapping, pinning, freezing, and amputation as means of bodily control.

Papers drawing on conceptual frameworks relating to gender studies, critical race theory and/or disability studies are especially welcome, as are those from early career scholars. Accommodation will be provided for speakers in Maastricht.

Please submit proposals for 20-minute presentations to t.quick@maastrichtuniversity.nl by 29th September, 2023. Invitations to participate will be sent by October 9th.

Tom Quick. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow. Maastricht University: Science, Technology and Society Studies.

Key texts:

Maan Barua. (2021). Infrastructure and non-human life: A wider ontology. Progress in Human Geography45, 1467–1489.

Jacob Bull. (2018). Tick movements Patterning multispecies vulnerabilities. In Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, eds. Nancy Cook and David Butz (Routledge).

Timothy Cresswell. (2014). Mobilities III: Moving on. Progress in Human Geography, 38, 712–721

Stefanie R. Fishel. (2019). Of other movements: nonhuman mobility in the Anthropocene. Mobilities, 14:3, 351-362.

Timothy Hodgetts & Jamie Lorimer. (2020). Animals’ mobilities. Progress in Human Geography, 44, 4–26.

Philip Howell & Ilanah Taves. (2021). Black Protest and the Man on Horseback: Race, Animality, and Equestrian Counter-Conduct. GeoHumanities, 7, 494-512.

Nancy Jacobs. (2016). Birders of Africa: History of a Network (Yale University Press).

David Lambert. (2015). Master-Horse-Slave: Mobility, Race and Power in the British West Indies, c.1780–1838. Slavery & Abolition 36, 618-641.

Sabina Leonelli, Robert G. W. Kirk & Dmitriy Myelnikov. (2023). ‘Circulating bodies: human-animal movements in science and medicine’ History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 45, 9.

Sara Peres & Emma Roe. (2022). Laboratory Animal Strain Mobilities: handling with care for animal sentience and biosecurity. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44, 30.

Olga Petri and Michael Guida (eds.). (2023). Winged Worlds: Common Spaces of Avian-Human Lives (Taylor & Francis).

Jonathan Saha. (2021). Colonizing Animals: Interspecies Empire in Myanmar (Cambridge University Press).

Jacob Shell. (2015). Transportation and Revolt Pigeons, Mules, Canals, and the Vanishing Geographies of Subversive Mobility (MIT Press).

Robert M. Wilson. (2015). Mobile bodies: Animal migration in North American history. Geoforum 65, 465-472.

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