Organized Session

SHOT Joint Session

Animal Materialities


Laurence Douny

Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Lisa Onaga

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science


Evan Hepler-Smith

Duke University


Session Abstract

Throughout human history animals have been used for practical, creative, scientific, and commercial uses, for instance, from foods and cosmetics, and from drugs to design research. Substances and materials co-constructed by animals and humans create many opportunities for considering the historical roles of animal bodies in practical settings. This panel integrates studies of technology, design, chemistry, biology, and anthropology in order to articulate ways in which the phenomena of “stickiness” or “affinity” and “dissolution” and “antipathy” are manifest in the making of new animal-derived or -mediated materials. We also strive to deepen a comprehension of how animals are made part of the fabric of human culture on a material level. Therefore, our analysis of animal materialities is grounded in the idea of composition. Conventionally, “composition” is used to describe works of art that gather things together under an aesthetic logic. Through four papers on mammalian and invertebrate animals and the material practices that humans have developed around them, we explore a history of methodologies and processes used to investigate and render animal materials into different artefacts. While at the same time acknowledging the significance of the original organism, we especially engage with micro-scale actions and activities within and among materialities that are integral to understanding human technological change and animal-human relations.

Presenter 1

Waste Not: Animal Fats, Animal Chemistry and Soap amid Changing Industrial Practices 1750-1860

Sarah Lowengard

Presenter 2

When Is a Solution a Problem? Animal Glues in Laboratories and Workshops in Twentieth-Century Japan

Sarah Teasley

Royal College of Art

Presenter 3

Degumming West African Wild Silks in the 20th and 21st Century Burkina Faso

Laurence Douny

Humboldt Universität

Presenter 4

Biomaterial Matters: A History of Interstitial Things

Lisa A. Onaga

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science