Animals in Transdisciplinary Environmental History

Intensive graduate seminar

Animals in Transdisciplinary Environmental History
University of Tartu
Läänemaa, Estonia
May 13–15, 2015
3 ECTS credits

The graduate seminar, “Animals in Transdisciplinary Environmental History,” will explore animals as historical agents and as a lens through which to understand past environmental transformations. The instructors of the course include specialists from environmental history as well as from neighbouring disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, ethnology, biosemiotics, and literature. The event will therefore focus distinctly on transdisciplinary methods for historical research outside of archival work. This three-day graduate seminar will offer intermediate to advanced graduate students the opportunity to present and discuss their work, to network with other researchers from across the world, and participate in practical workshops.

Issues to be discussed during the workshop include, but are not limited to:
– Animal representations: how are animals represented in different media, cultures, and languages;
– Animals and catastrophes: the impact of natural and anthropogenic catastrophes on non-human others;
– Animals as resources: animals as food, labour force, means of transport, entertainment, and the impact of their use on natural environments and human culture;
– Animal remains as resources for history writing: bones, shell, fur, skin, and scales as historical sources, what they do and do not reveal and how they can be analyzed;
– Animal and inter-species communication: how non-human animal species communicate with each other and humans, how they make sense of the world and what humans mean to them;
– Animals assisting humans: how animals have helped humans to fulfill tasks or access resources.
A workshop on popular science writing will also take place and the seminar will end with an open roundtable on animals assisting humans.

The graduate seminar aims to gather 15 graduate (and post-doctoral) students together with junior and senior scholars who will all give formal and informal presentations, personal and public feedback for promoting rich methodological discussions in a friendly atmosphere. The discussions are concentrated into thematic blocs that include a presentation from a senior scholar, oral presentations by the doctoral students, feedback for each of the presentations both from instructors and other participants, general discussion and a practical workshop or a field trip. All participants are expected to make a 20-minute oral presentation and give constructive feedback to other presentations. They are also expected to submit a draft of a chapter or article (approximately 4000 words) one month before the seminar and prepare a popular science article (max 500 words) on their topic for the Arcadia project that will subsequently be edited and reworked during the writing workshop and submitted to Arcadia for publication.

Interested graduate students (maximum 15) can apply for the seminar by sending following information to Kadri Tüür ( by December 15th, 2014:
1) a curriculum vitae;
2) an abstract of the presentation and outline of the research topic (ca 300 words);
3) a letter of support.
All doctoral students and immediate post-docs working on the above topics are welcome to apply.

The working language of the summer school is English. All accepted participants will receive free room and board during this three-day seminar (in shared rooms), but participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from Estonia. Travel between Tallinn and the seminar venue is covered by the organizers. Limited travel funds may be available on a scholarship basis for competitive applications.

Hosting Institutions: KAJAK, the Estonian Centre for Environmental History at Tallinn University Institute of History; University of Tartu; Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society (LMU Munich); Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts; European Society for Environmental History.

The graduate seminar and the Assistant animals workshop are financed by the European Union through the European Social Fund (Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts), Norwegian-Estonian Research Cooperation Programme grant EMP151 “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis,” Estonian Research Council grant ETF9419, European Society for Environmental History, and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society (LMU Munich).