Keynote speaker: Rohan Deb Roy, University of Reading
Twenty years ago, historian of science and cultural critic Donna J. Haraway published The Companion Species Manifesto, a thought-provoking text in which she engaged with notions of cohabitation, coevolution and cross-species sociality. While Haraway focused in this very personal treatise particularly on the relationship between humans and dogs, her idea of companion species includes all organic beings which have shaped and influenced human life, ranging from enterobacteria, rice and tulips to bees and horses. We all exist in in a multi-layered socio-ecological relationship which belies the traditional dualism of nature and culture and the dissociation of humans from their natural environment.
Taking their cue from Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour and other thinkers such as Agustin Fuentes, researchers are increasingly turning to questions of agency that include non-human beings such as animals and plants. Historians, literary scholars, anthropologists and other scholars in the humanities try to overcome the boundaries between the natural sciences and the humanities and take ethnobotanical approaches to historical questions, tell tales of diversity by studying mushrooms, or explore the role of elephants within colonial settings. Their common aim, stated more or less explicitly, is to investigate where sociocultural context and biophysical elements interact and how they shape “naturecultures”.
While human-plant studies are strongly influenced by human-animal studies, there are few integrated studies looking at flora and fauna and how they interact with human beings. In this workshop, we are interested in bridging this gap and to bring together scholars who are open to explore an integrated approach that emphasizes biocultural connections and the intricate spaces where natural environment, landscape, animals, plants, and humans shape each other. We seek to probe the entirety of the living world and to encompass nature in its most comprehensive sense, thus avoiding to privilege human over animal, animal over plant studies.
Through all ages and in all regions of the world, imperial expansion spawned particularly intense periods of interaction between human and non-human life forms. Previously distinct societies, flora, and fauna came into contact, were observed, catalogued, mobilized, exchanged, and utilized in particular ways, creating profound effects on the environment in general as well as on any individual "umwelt" in particular. As historians, we are therefore particularly interested in processes of imperialism and its effects on non-human histories.
Concretely, in this workshop, we want to engage with historically specific situations and practices during imperial expansion - be it maritime or continental empires. We are especially interested in contributions that go beyond the influence of European empires and emphasize the agency of Indigenous and other non-European actors as well as human and non-human influences. We also encourage papers that combine different methodologies and types of historical evidence, such as Indigenous Studies, Archaeology, Ethnography, Anthropology, and studies on visual and material culture.
We invite proposals for papers that focus on one of the following themes:
1) Reconfigurations of Landscapes/Environments, exploring the ecological changes brought about by colonial activities, environmental change, extraction/ exploitation, and after-effects on non-human life forms and vice versa.
2) Knowledge, Beliefs, and Practices, analyzing historically specific situations and practices, and focusing on questions such as how do plants and animals act upon us, how do they contribute to the co-generation of our cultural practices? How and why did people think about certain animals and plants in the way they did?
3) Collection and Representation, examining how specimens were used, collected, categorized, traded, and transported in different socio-ecological frameworks, their influence on scientific, cultural, and imperial knowledge, and its representation.
We especially encourage submissions from PhD students and researchers in the early stages of their careers. It is our aim to publish a selection of papers discussed at the workshop as a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal.
Workshop structure and subsistence:
To allow for the maximum engagement and discussion with individual papers, there will be no paper presentations at the workshop in the classical sense. Instead, papers will be pre-circulated five weeks before the workshop. Each paper will be assigned two commentators from the group of presenters who give their comments before a general discussion of each paper.
The workshop will take place at the University of Tübingen, Germany, from 18-19 July 2024. The sessions will be conducted in English. Moderate travel expenses and participants‘ accommodation for one night from 18-19 July will be covered by the organizers. Pending on funding, additional nights can be covered, too.
Abstracts should be no more than 500 words, outlining the proposed topic in relation to the above-mentioned themes. Please also include a brief CV of no more than 1 page, all in one PDF.
Submissions should be sent to email@example.com by 30 Nov 2023.
Successful applicants will be notified shortly after.
For further information, please contact either of the organizers:
Dr. Sabine Hanke, Universität Tübingen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Anne Sophie Overkamp, Universität Tübingen, email@example.com
 Donna J. Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003.
 Ibid., When Species Meet, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008; Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1993; ibid., Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; Agustín Fuentes and Linda D. Wolfe, eds., Primates Face to Face: The Conservation Implications of Human–Nonhuman Primate Interconnections, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002; Agustín Fuentes, “Naturalcultural Encounters in Bali: Monkeys, Temples, Tourists, and Ethno-primatology.” Cultural Anthropology 25 (2010): 600–624.
 Just to name a few scholars of this recent trend: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2015; Jonathan Saha, Colonizing Animals: Interspecies Empire in Myanmar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021; Rohan Deb Roy, “Nonhuman Empires.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 35.1 (2015): 66-75; John C. Ryan, “Passive Flora? Reconsidering Nature’s Agency through Human-Plant Studies (HPS).” Societies 2 (2012): 101–121; Sophie Ruppel, Botanophilie: Mensch und Pflanze in der aufklärerisch-bürgerlichen Gesellschaft um 1800, Köln: Böhlau 2019. For a review on multi-species ethnography, see Laura A. Ogden, Billy Hall and Kimiko Tanita, “Animals, Plants, People, and Things: A Review of Multispecies Ethnography.” Environment and Society 4 (2013), 5-24; on the relation between human-animal and human-plant studies see Frederike Middelhoff, Animal Studies and Plant Studies. Eine Verhältnisbestimmung, in: Urte Stobbe, Anke Kramer, Berbeli Wanning, eds., Literaturen und Kulturen des Vegetabilen: Plant Studies – Kulturwissenschaftliche Pflanzenforschung, Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang 2022, 71-95.
 Seminal on the concept of „umwelt“ is Jakob Johann von Uexküll, Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere, Berlin: J. Springer 1909. Uexküll introduced the notion of umwelt as a causal relation between a living being and its environment.