Call for Submissions: Animal Encounters

Scroll this

Animal Encounters

A NiCHE Series

Proposal Deadline: April 26th, 2024

Series Publication: Early June 2024

Series Editors: Caroline Abbott and Heather Green

Historians’ interactions with animals in archival settings remains primarily human centered. When we locate animals in archival settings – whether accidentally or with purpose – we often learn more about human lives than we do about the lives of the animals represented. For example, specimens collected in the past are more commonly prioritized by when, where, by whom, and why a specimen was killed than information what centers details of that animal’s life. Likewise, more-than-human life in digitized photographic and media archives are often lumped into broad categories – “dog,” “cattle,” “insect” – and indeed, our notice of them in print media, expedition logs or more unexpected representations of animal life in archival sources often present as microhistories which many methodologies find too narrow in scope for use on their own accord.

Black and white photograph of a taxidermy tiger posed standing tall on all four limbs.
Taxidermy tiger specimen at the Queensland Museum, Brisbane, by Queensland State Archives. CC Public Domain.

Recent scholarship in animal and environmental history has shown the possibilities for historians to center the lives of the animals we encounter within historical study.1 Archival standards are also rapidly changing alongside a wave of digitization where more detailed information about animal lives are included in institutional catalogues, though still primarily human focused. Not discounting the practical limitations archivists face when cataloguing animals in archival settings, we believe historians have engaged with innovative and nuanced approaches to better understanding animal lives and afterlives they’ve “encountered” in archival settings (broadly conceived).

When we seek, find, or “encounter” an animal in archive, with or without expectation, how environmental historians respond dictates the representation of the ways more-than-human history are intertwined with our own. How can we do better by them? How can environmental and animal historians better account for, recognize, and address the histories of individual animal lives represented in archives? How might addressing the biographical details of archival animals assist in more comprehensive problematizations of the settler-colonial legacies with which they entangle? What is our responsibility towards centering these narratives?2 What does “good practice” look like, and how can we have productive conversations about this vital work?

In collaboration with the recent launch of the Animal Narrative, Identity, Microhistory and Archive Atlas (Anima), NiCHE invites submissions for our upcoming series, Animal Encounters. This series seeks contributions which continue and expand upon these vital conversations to further problematize and engage environmental historians’ nuanced interactions with archival animals.

Anima, a GIS project led by Caroline Abbott, uses open-source programming to reimagine the way archival animal lives have historically been represented. Conceiving of the animal broadly, the project aims to engage the possibilities which emerge when the human-centered programs on which those catalogues rely are broken and reformed to center and contextualize the details of historical animal lives. As part of this collaborative series, animal lives featured in contributions to this series may also be added to Anima’s atlas and interactive global map, with authors’ permission.

United in no small part by the aim to broaden field accessibility to animal histories and microhistories, and the immersive understanding of historical animal lives they represent, this collaborative series encourages scholars to share their animal “encounter” stories – or stories of animal absences in broad archival/institutional settings which may include traditional archives, digital archives, museums, oral history, or other “archival” settings.

A colored sketch of eleven "animals with antlers" drawn in 1820.
Collection of animal with antlers from A history of the earth and animated nature (1820) by Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774), by Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel. Licensed under CC BY 4.0

We invite posts (800-1200 words) that focus on non-human animal encounters, methodology, research stories, or histories of animal lives. Possible themes and topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Animal archival encounter as a lens for exploring multispecies entanglements
  • Representations of animal life, history, and identity in visual culture, art, oral tradition, and folklore
  • Animal biographies considerate of the animal as individual
  • Animals in unexpected places
  • Methodologies of tracking migrations of historic animals
  • Archival animal narratives which entangle with extractive, colonial histories more broadly at play
  • Frameworks for improving practice and understanding of what it means to encounter the animal in the archive
  • Animal archival encounter as a privileged space (ex. Institutional privilege; Linnaean classification; race or class privilege)
  • Problematization or histories of “specimen” lives
  • Ethical and methodological considerations in historical animal research, including problematizations of methodologies, linguistics and terminologies, theoretical frameworks

Those interested should submit a 300-word proposal in the form below by April 26th 2024. Submissions should also include a 100-word biography. Authors will be notified of their acceptance and publication calendar by May 10th with series publication beginning early June. If you have any questions, please contact Heather Green or Caroline Abbott [ and].

We welcome submissions from scholars at all career stages, as well as those from adjacent disciplines, and encourage intersectional approaches. Submissions from scholars working on underrepresented environments, species, and historical periods are encouraged to apply. NiCHE offers $100 CAD honoraria to contributors without adequate or consistent access to institutional support. Learn more about our honoraria policy here.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

Featured Image: Taxidermy specimen — Washtenaw County’s Last Wolf, killed February 8th, 1907. RPPC by Fenn and Vogel, druggists, Chelsea, Michigan, by Wystan on flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
[1] For example, Colleen Campbell and Tina Loo, “Making Tracks: A Grizzly and Entangled History,” in Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History, ed. Jennifer Bonnell and Sean Kheraj (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2022):
[2]This passage also appears on Anima’s about page.
The following two tabs change content below.
Heather Green is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Saint Mary's University. She is interested in the intersections of environmental and Indigenous histories, histories of Indigenous and Settler Relations, and mining history, particularly in the Canadian North. You can connect with her on twitter @heathergreen21.

NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.