Re-animating the Historical Cities – The Role of Animal Agency in Shaping Cities in Modernity

Friday, February 1, 2019

12:00 pm

Encina Hall West, Room 219

Sponsored by:
CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

It is remarkable how quickly features of our evolving cities are forgotten – among these the prevalence of animals in the historical city. Dr. Petri's seminar aims to underscore the role of nonhuman animals as historical actors by using examples from her own research on the urban canary in late Imperial St. Petersburg (1880 – 1917). More broadly, she intends to share ideas on difficult-to-research human and non-human animal actors. Animal studies or ‘human-animal studies’ compromise a wide range of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, as well as zoology and cognitive sciences. The main premises of this inter-disciplinary field is to place questions concerning animals at the centre of critical inquiry. Challenging the idea that ‘only humans make history’, Dr. Petri asks to what extent animals (in the case of this paper, birds) are involved in historical geographical processes. In particular, Dr. Petri will explore the relationships between urbanisation and animals in late Imperial Russia. Her own research agenda, however, is not limited to the intrinsically anthropocentric discussion about cultural representation of animals in Russian history and culture (although such pioneering histories shaped the symbolic importance of animals in Slavic studies and should not be forgotten). Instead, through the account of the canary’s history as a songbird, she will explore how the history of the urban canary is not merely a private matter, but has important implications for our understanding of urban nationalism, the ‘commoditisation’ of nature in and for the city, and the role of the city in re-shaping the country-side. Beyond these issues lie broader questions, unavoidable for animal-human historians, concerned with animal agency, with an ontological and ethico-political framework, and with methods of research and rigorous interpretation, which are central not just to animal-history but to the evolving art of historical research itself.

Olga Petri is the Leverhulme/Newton Trust Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. She is an urban historical geographer, concerned with understanding the relationship between the administrative state, social communities or milieus and the modernization of urban space. Her research has focused on late Imperial St. Petersburg, which offers an opportunity to explore largely untapped archival evidence carrying the street-level impress of an idiosyncratic, internally conflicted and ultimately over-written urban modernity. Her work draws from and contributes to inter-related discussions in historical and cultural urban geography, historical queer studies, and the history of late imperial Russia.

Friday, February 1, 2019
12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Encina Hall West, Room 219

This event is open to Stanford affiliates.

RSVP Requested.


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