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Theme for 2022-23

The Symposium theme: Animals in the City

For the 2022-23 academic year, the theme for the Symposium will be “Animals in the City.” Nonhuman animals commonly found in cities include wild animals, companion animals, zoo animals, laboratory and research animals, service animals, pest animals, and farmed animals, among others. Awareness of cities as more-than-human spaces has been growing since the turn of the century, fueling scientific and public debate on the role of nonhuman animals in urban spaces. For better or for worse, the paradigm of human/nature separation rooted in the creation of the “sanitary city” in the nineteenth century is eroding. The Symposium asks how we can better appreciate and accommodate animals in the city, while also exploring the ecological, health, ethical, and cultural implications of doing so.

The Symposium investigates interrelated themes such as blurred boundaries between the human and the nonhuman, the right of nonhuman species to the city, interactions between human and nonhuman animals, urban planning to address multispecies conflict and coexistence, promoting public health given the interconnection between people, animals, and their shared environment (One Health), and how centering animals in urban research changes our understanding of economic, political, social, and cultural aspects of the urban experience. Grappling with the changing role of animals in urban society and culture calls for collaboration among researchers in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities; in fields such as urban studies, animal science, human-animal studies, anthropology, sociology, politics, public policy, public health, ecology, and environmental humanities. Throughout the year, the courses, co-curricular events, and research opportunities generated by the Symposium strive to make visible the hidden multispecies entanglements of urban spaces.


Animals in the City: Politics, Justice, Democracy

This course introduces students to humanities and social science perspectives on human-animal relations in the city. These interactions are often structured by exploitation and violence but also generate more imaginative approaches to multispecies belonging and community. The first part of the course examines the “animal turn” in the social sciences and humanities, considers the role of animals in political theory, and takes stock of growing awareness of nonhuman animals in urban settings, including how centering animals in urban studies and the blurring of human/nonhuman boundaries this shift entails changes what cities mean. The second part of the course surveys various kinds of human-animal relationships found in cities: agriculture and research animals (e.g., backyard chickens, laboratory rats), working animals (e.g., service dogs, zoo animals), companion animals, unwanted animals (e.g., non-native species, feral cats), and, last but not least, urban wildlife. The final part of the course considers novel conceptions of multispecies democracy and justice.

Multispecies Art

Can animals create art? What does it mean for human artists to collaborate artistically with members of nonhuman species? How does intentionality and animal creativity fit into a conception of multispecies art? What is animal? What even is art, and can nonhuman animals meaningfully create it? "Multispecies Art" will engage students in these and more questions about multispecies art practices. The course asks students to consider their own participation in multispecies relations and to explore ways in which artistic endeavors are integral to shared multispecies coexistence. In this course, we will survey the multispecies art movement, a movement anchored in the recent conceptual turn towards human-animal relations, but whose genealogies include bioart and ecological art. We will learn about how institutions, including museums and art galleries, participate in multispecies art, particularly in cities. We’ll also consider aesthetics, consent, and representation, asking: how does multispecies art cultivate community? The course will include a few guest speakers as well as hands-on activities that help build creative practice. Students will design and execute their own creative project in a medium of their choice.

The Metropolitan’s Smallest Animals: Urban Microbiomes in Public Health, Sustainability, and City Infrastructure
Eating Animals (Or Not)
Biopolitics of Bugs
Cultural History of Zoos
King Kong as an Urban Folktale
Representing Animal Life in Dioramas at The Academy

Current Faculty Cohort