SIEF2017 13th Congress: Göttingen, Germany
26-30 March 2017

Shared spaces: perspectives on animal architecture
Location VG 2.103
Date and Start Time 28 March, 2017 at 10:45
Sessions 2


  • Sophie Elpers (Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) email
  • Michaela Fenske (Humboldt-Universität Berlin) email

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Short Abstract

The panel takes the ideas of animal architecture as its starting point to examine how human building activity and its material cultures allow(ed) - and ask(ed) for - ways of living together of humans and animals and what kind of social entities came and come into being.

Long Abstract

The recently developing field of animal architecture is seen as an important field towards a common future of humans and animals in an entangled world: under the slogan of "cospecies and cospacing," animal architectures are looking for creative forms of living together of humans and animals. In a historical perspective, as well as in contemporary everyday experience, there are numerous examples of human-animal co-habiting. Swallows for example were welcome to inhabit the stables of European farmhouses since many centuries, living together with humans and their so-called domesticated animals; in today's cities foxes share the urban space with human inhabitants.

The panel asks what human building activity and its material cultures allow in order to create ways of living together, and what they limit. Against the theoretical backdrop of Human-Animal Studies and the concept of "becoming with" as a relational process between humans and animals we examine on which perceptions, narratives and negotiations about human-animal relationships animal architectures are based and which orders of the human and non-human world they express. How do animals deal with human-made buildings? What kind of social entities of humans and animals come into being? We welcome contributions which discuss these and other questions on an empirical and/or theoretical basis and would like to learn from contemporary examples or future plans as well as from historical approaches.

This is a panel of the SIEF Working Group "Historical Approaches in Cultural Analysis".

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


How to not be a stuffed animal: turning museums of natural history upside down, multispecies-wise

Authors: Susanne Schmitt  email
Laurie Young  email

Short Abstract

Museums of Natural History are populated with dead animal bodies: taxidermy specimens used to evoke lively connections. As a dancer and an ethnographer, we create immersive audio walks that revive those species as multi species commons by exploring its potential for new forms of conviviality.

Long Abstract

What do Natural History Museums and Zoological Collections look and feel like if we de-center Human experience, and explore alternative ways of sensing and making sense of them? How can we rebuild museums by activating them from a multi species perspective?

In our arts and science project "How to Not be a Stuffed Animal", a mixed team puts multispecies ethnography, choreography, situationist practice and much more to use to create immersive audiowalks for visitors that help them think museums as spaces not only for humans. The audio walks are choreographic scores which invite the visitor to experience the museum space by embodying material artifacts.

In our contribution, we offer samples of those currently emerging walks as creative forms of living together by showing what a shift of horizon, sensorium, and narration can do to re-configure the museum as a dwelling site in a more inclusive sense.

Architectures for and of wolves in Swiss natural history museums

Author: Elisa Frank (University of Zurich)  email

Short Abstract

The paper discusses natural history museums’ architectures for and of wolves which are created in the course of the return of these predators in Switzerland. These museum architectures reflect and also construct new shared spaces outside the museum walls.

Long Abstract

For about 20 years now wolves are back in Switzerland - and in the minds and lives of many Swiss people, leading to a variety of positions towards and practical ways of dealing with these newly arrived non-human beings. In the course of this return, new multispecies landscapes are emerging, e.g. on mountain pastures, where new persons (e.g. shepherd), new animals (e.g. livestock guardian dog) and new objects (e.g. electric fence) appear and come into being. The actor-network that the return of these predators generates is a complex and extensive one.

Instead of focusing on animal architecture in spaces where humans, wolves and other non-human beings actually live together, the proposed paper analyses a sector of this actor-network in which the wolf is not actually "present", but where his return is reflected in a highly material way: natural history museums. In these key settings of environmental education architectures for and of wolves are designed: (taxidermied) wolves can no longer be placed in the section "extinct species", but they need to be reintegrated in a new way - not least spatially and materially - in the stories a museum tells about nature. In doing so, the museum not only reflects the new entangled world(s) outside, but - as a site of knowledge production - it also suggests specific ways of living together outside the museum walls. The paper is based on fieldwork in Swiss natural history museums and interviews with curators, taxidermists and museum educators.

Microbial dwelling: the sharing of space and body in medical institutions

Author: Katharina Rynkiewich (Washington University in St. Louis)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the relationship(s) of cospacing and cobecoming between humans and microbes within hospital environments. I will explore the ways of living together that arise in an era where “superbugs” are feared by humans but gut flora and the microbiome are precious research subjects.

Long Abstract

Humans and microbes have at once a contentious and a symbiotic relationship. Throughout history, microbes have acted upon and co-evolved with humans - a process of co-becoming. Antibiotics brought with them hope that pathogenic microbes would be eradicated, with little thought given to the corresponding catastrophe experienced by the "good" microbes. The "good" microbes, existing within the vast universe of the microbiome and gut flora, are only now being recognized as permanent residents of the human body. These independently-acting microbes are a new resource for medical practitioners, as well as a challenge to medical education and practice based on war metaphors.

This paper, based on six months of ethnographic fieldwork, looks at the cospacing and cobecoming of humans and microbes in an urban medical complex in the United States. For decades, medical practitioners have understood that certain pathogen strains are unique to and propagated within hospital walls. In the space of the hospital, a particular relationship - between immunocompromised patients and microbial invaders - has emerged, leading to an epidemic of "superbugs." It is clear that "bugs" have found a comfortable home in the hospital setting, benefitting from the constant flow of patients. Hospitals have tests for detecting the presence of microbial invaders in the blood and urine of patients. In this paper, I demonstrate that the material presence of microbes and humans in the hospital allows for cobecoming through cospacing that creates an infectious disease landscape forever tainted by the cohabitation of humans and microbes - the "good" and the "bad."

The architecture of slaughter: protocapitalist economization of animals in 19th and early 20th century Vienna

Author: Lukasz Nieradzik (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines the development of modern architecture of slaughter and the beginnings of the protocapitalist economization of animal bodies in 19th and early 20th century Vienna. The slaughterhouse is conceptualized as a paradigmatic place of modernity.

Long Abstract

In the 19th and 20th century, the meat consumption rapidly increased in European cities. Therefore, municipalities were facing tremendous challenges concerning supply of the urban population. They stepped up efforts to control, mechanize, accelerate and streamline butchering and meat production. This modernization policy promoted the construction of slaughterhouses. The paper examines the Viennese slaughterhouse construction as an example case for the Europe-wide modernization of meat supply from its beginnings in mid-nineteenth century to First World War. With the development of modern architecture of slaughter a new expert knowledge of the spatial design of killing arose and with it new forms to economize animal bodies.

At the interface of architectural and body history the paper examines the slaughterhouse as a paradigmatic place of modernity. Based on historical photographies, construction plans and drawings, first, I describe the construction of Viennese slaughterhouses. In a second step I examine the interdependent semantic rearrangements of "the animal" and "the human" related to architectural settings. The spatial framing enables an historical cultural approach to analyze the beginnings of the protocapitalist economization of livestock. Beyond, it brings detailed insights into the development of current meat production and supply systems.

Living with pests, pets and plants: co-habitation in contemporary gardens

Authors: Katarina Saltzman (University of Gothenburg)  email
Carina Sjöholm  email

Short Abstract

This paper will discuss the co-habitation of humans, animals and plants in contemporary home gardens in Sweden. Approaching both human and non-human actors as biosocial becomings, we will look at the intermingled processes that make the garden a home to many kinds of living organisms.

Long Abstract

The private garden can be regarded as an important part of the house-owner's home, but it is also the home of many other living organisms. Birds and mammals, insects, worms and not least plants live their lives intermingled in the contemporary human habitations of single-house suburbs. Thus, home gardens provide plenty of material to reflect on and handle biodiversity and sustainability issues in relation to modern lifestyle.

The co-habitation of humans, animals and plants is in some cases a well-planned human arrangement, as in the case of pets and cultivated plants. In other cases there is an on-going struggle between gardeners and non-human intruders, so-called "pests" and "weeds". In yet other cases, co-existing non-human neighbours might be unknown and unnoticed by the human inhabitants of the garden.

In a recent research project we have examined interactions between people, plants, animals and other actors in contemporary home gardens in Sweden. This paper will focus on the co-habitation of humans, animals and plants, in vernacular gardens. Inspired by Tim Ingold, we understand both human and non-human actors as biosocial becomings rather than beings. In the garden, biosocial humans and biosocial plants constantly interact with each other, as well as with other actors and becomings. Based on our informants' accounts, we conclude that the home garden is an important place for everyday interactions and negotiations around concepts such as nature. To live with a garden is to influence and be influenced by an environment; to form it and be formed by it.

Bad birds, good birds: sharing space and establishing cultural order in popular garden practice

Authors: Carsten Vorwig (LVR-Freilichtmuseum Kommern)  email
Dagmar Hänel (LVR-Institut for regional studies)  email

Short Abstract

Birdhouses are architectural materialisation of cultural orders. Placed in the sensitive border area surrounding the home, bird houses are multifunctional objects, they are connected to cultural practices and mental concepts of nature and culture and their special ethic connotations.

Long Abstract

Birdhouses are not only decorative architectural elements in gardens. They are materialisation of cultural orders in a sensitive border area: between inside and outside, culture and nature, home and outland, human and non-human.

Those little, mostly wooden objects are wide-spread in urban and rural backyards and balconies. The design differs, people offer modern bungalows, traditional framework houses or bright coloured boxes with pitched roof, sometimes also with a chimney, to tits, robins and sparrows. Their two functions, offering a nesting side or special food to birds, are both intending the protection of especially local birds, which become a symbol for healthy environment, "natural" and "regional" garden culture and the idea of co-spacing human and wild animals in urban settings. The birdhouses are expressions of lifestyle, ecology and special concepts of nature and moral attitudes. There is an intensive popular discourse, if and what kind of birdhouse-practices are "right", ecologically worthwhile and educationally meaningful. Also the question, which birds are the welcomed visitors and inhabitants of the birdhouse, gives an insight in popular concepts of nature. One respondent told us: "Those nasty parakeets, they always steal the food from our birdhouse. They just don't belong here."

This complex bricolage of attitudes and practices is analysed by a ethnography of material culture, which includes the narrations of and the practices with birdhouses. It includes also a historical perspective focussing on the changing forms, practices and the underlying discourses of and with local birds as expression of establishing cultural orders in everyday life.

Living with birds of prey: more-than-human architectures and the domus

Author: Sara Asu Schroer (University of Aberdeen)  email

Short Abstract

Building on ethnographic examples from falconry and raptor conservation this paper argues for a more-than-human perspective when considering architectures and material infrastructures in contexts of domestication.

Long Abstract

Building on ethnographic examples from falconry and raptor conservation this paper argues for a more-than-human perspective when considering architectures and material infrastructures in contexts of domestication. It is suggested that such 'architectures of domestication' (Anderson et al.: forthcoming) are best understood through an ecological approach that focuses on the co-creative activities and practices in which humans and nonhuman beings are involved. Such an emplacement is not to be understood through a pure focus on human domination or multi-species mutualism but rather as enrolling relations of control with those of care and comfort. Material infrastructures (e.g. aviaries, hack towers, hoods and tethers) in falconry and raptor conservation will serve as ethnographic examples of the more-than-human knowledge practices that go into their design and use. The paper will thus contribute to the so far little explored material inventories of domestication through understanding architectural structures as central for the establishment of cross-species communication and co-living.


Anderson, D., Loovers P., Schroer S. and R. Wishart (forthcoming). 'Architectures of Domestication: On Emplacing Human-Animal relationships in the North'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Under one roof: the year-round intimacy of "summer stall-feeding" of cattle in the German Economic Enlightenment, ca. 1750-1800

Author: Jadon Nisly (Otto-Friederich University of Bamberg)  email

Short Abstract

The “summer stall-feeding” of the German Economic Enlightenment brought cattle into farmhouses day and night year-round, shaping animal lives through architecture, but also creating an intimate shared space of embodied animal agency where dairy maids and cows “worked together” in close quarters.

Long Abstract

A central project of the German branch of the Economic Enlightenment was moving livestock production entirely into the human-built environment: so-called Sommerstallfütterung, or "summer stall-feeding" meant cattle were fed fodder crops like clover indoors instead of grazing in communal village herds. The majority of stalls were in farmhouses, meaning cattle were now next to living spaces day and night throughout the year. This intimacy, living together under one roof, was promoted even by very progressive agriculturalists like Pastor J.F. Mayer, who published plans for a prototypical peasant house, with the ground floor dedicated to cattle stalls and living quarters above. New architectural features like vaulted stone ceilings and ventilating chimneys were meant to prevent disease in confined animals, features often tested and shared with the public in model farms called "Swiss dairies" (Schweizerei) built by princes or estate owners, such as the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, whose Schweizerei from 1782 still stands. Detailed architectural plans, receipts and inventories, as well as the Patriotic-Economic Societies' journals, give insight into this shared space. The cows' experience was now solely of the human-built environment, they were thus severely limited in vital social and resting behaviors, but could still be uncooperative by kicking the milk pail or trampling fodder. Caring for cattle became more intimate, as the mostly female dairy workers now hardly left the cramped stalls: feeding, grooming, milking, and removing manure in close proximity to the animals. Their shared work opens up interesting possibilities of praxeological "embodied agency" within the built environment.

The stable as interface between man and animal

Author: Michael Schimek (Museumsdorf Cloppenburg - Lowersaxon Open-air Museum)  email

Short Abstract

Based upon historic and present examples the paper asks how cohabitation of man and livestock was and is organised in stables of Northwestern Lower Saxony.It is about which needs of animals and human beings stables had and have to satisfy and which ideas formed and form agricultural cohabitation in buildings.

Long Abstract

The German centre of meat production is located in the Northwest of Lower Saxony. This kind of "industry", including firms and farms that breed and fatten poultry and pigs, concentrates in the counties of Cloppenburg und Vechta. Cattle is kept particularly along the coast for dairy farming. According to this there are many stables, new ones as well as older ones. Livestock has been kept here for centuries as part of subsistence farming. Only the import of feedingstuff from abroad and the connection with the customers via railway since the late 19th century made this kind of livestock-based "finishing economy" possible.

This development materializes in building of stables: In the traditional farmhouses human beings and livestock lived beneath one roof, a very few do so still today. Certain animal species were separated in special buildings already in early days, other species stayed housemates of the farmer's family for a long time. New built stables places the livestock strictly separated from human beings.

Based upon historic and present examples the paper backtraces this development asking how cohabitation of man and livestock was and is organised referring to groundplan disposition as well as to technical means. Furthermore it is about which needs of animals and human beings stables had and have to satisfy and which ideas formed and form agricultural cohabitation in buildings.

Living in the neighborhood subordinated to animals: necessary and voluntary human-animal cohabitation in the historic settlement at the back of Racetrack Sluzewiec in the capital of Poland

Author: Barbara Bossak-Herbst (Warsaw University)  email

Short Abstract

The interplay of spatial and social determinants of multispecies cohabitation at the backstage of vast Racetrack Sluzewiec will be discussed. Projected by architects and grassroots interspecies relations will be collated and analyzed through the revised concept of "web of life" (Park, 1936).

Long Abstract

During ethnographic studies on the social enclave at the back of the Warsaw hippodrome, among topics arose from my fieldwork, was issue of shared spaces and rules of interspecies coexistence.

In my presentation social and spatial conditions of human-animal cohabitation hidden by six kilometer concrete wall from Warsaw people sight will be examined. Settlement at Racetrack Sluzewiec was built in the interwar for fool blood horses and stable stuff. Project was created to fulfill needs of both. Beside the hippodrome, according to modernistic concepts, sunny and airy blocks were build next to stables, parks, next to pastries, training track and horse traffic was separated from human and wheel traffic by underpasses.

Stables are adjacent to "racers" blocks which creates common also in sensual terms. Each stable has own accustomed cats family. Fans stay useless because of the swallows. In every visited household (one or two roomed) I met also private pets. Although most "racers" are poor some are engaged in saving old ponies which rumble on vast fallow lands and although living in vacant boxes, are treated more like pets. Stable staff and their families often also create spaces for other only partly accustomed species.

This multispecies milieu belong both to public and private sphere and is organized in some social entities of humans and animals. They own internal hierarchies and spatial patterns of social life. Referring to my observations, interviews and visual data I will interpreted them primarily through the revised concept of "web of life" (Park, 1936).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.