Contributed Papers

Human - Animal

Presenter 1

Animals invisible to the naked eye: Victorian Animalcules as Animals

Meegan Kennedy

Florida State University

Abstract

Building on difference studies, Darwin studies, and ecocriticism, Victorianist scholars increasingly study animals - even worms and insects - for new perspectives on nineteenth-century culture. However, scholarship on Victorian animals often overlooks the "animalcule" (microscopic animal). After the 1830s improvements in microscope technology, access to the microscopic world expanded radically across all classes, prompting a rethinking of the relation between the human world and the animal one.
Victorians considered animalcules to be part of the animal kingdom, following the classification system of predecessors such as Müller, Ehrenberg, Lamarck, Cuvier, and Roget. Victorians encountered animalcules through lectures, salons, articles in popular media, and lantern displays at large venues. Descriptions of animalcules often use an estranging rhetoric that emphasizes their alien forms but also their uncanny similarity to familiar objects and creatures; their unusual movements; their extraordinary minuteness; their countless multitudes; and their presence in human bodies and even, perhaps, drinking water.
The uncanny character of animalcule bodies contributes to the frisson that Victorians describe, with both wonder and revulsion, when considering these little creatures. The animalcule prompted conflicting responses: awe (influenced by natural theology and by a narrative of the scientific sublime); sympathy and identification; disgust. Ngai argues that "ugly feelings" like disgust focalize the individual's loss of power and agency in modern capitalism. The ambivalent response to the animalcule peaks as Victorians struggled to adapt to the explosive urbanization of the industrialized populace. Animalcules emblematized a new image of Britons not as independent agents but crowded masses: merely animals covered in, consuming, and filled with other animals. The animalcule, as much as any other creature, shaped Victorians' notions of human-animal relations.

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Presenter 2

Killing for Science: Insect Collecting in the Long Nineteenth Century

L. Joanne Green

University of Cambridge

Abstract

As entomology was spreading in England as a popular pursuit, there was a simultaneous growing awareness of animal welfare, and by the late nineteenth century the anti-vivisection movement was gaining momentum and criticising natural history collecting, including entomology, as cruel and immoral. Entomologists had to defend themselves from these accusations, which they did in different ways. For example, by demarcating 'philosophical entomologists', who studied their subjects' physiology and habits from 'mere collectors', arguing that the first killed 'for science' and only when necessary, while the latter, especially when their aim was to create a grand collection, were sometimes referred to as "ruthless destroyers".
Some entomologists were more ambivalent and felt certain qualms about extinguishing the lives of insects. For example, the lepidopterist Margaret Fountaine (1862-1940) often recorded feelings of guilt in her diaries, in one instance describing butterflies passing their lives in a quiet glade, "till we come with our nets, we the tormentors, the destroyers, and we take their little lives from them, and call it 'science', when hundreds of tiny existences are cut short...".
This paper will explore British entomologists' attitudes towards the darker aspect of their vocation - to practice their science, they had to kill living creatures. I will analyse advice given in entomological guidebooks together with debates in entomological periodicals from the long nineteenth century while focusing on some of the key questions that troubled collectors - do insects feel pain? Is it immoral to kill them? What is the best way to kill insects quickly and without damaging them? And how ethical is it to kill a large number of specimens of the same species? I will additionally investigate the gendered implications of this debate - what it meant for men to kill insects, and whether killing for the sake of collecting was considered a suitable pursuit for women.

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Presenter 3

Prosperity through "Beeconomy": American Women in Beekeeping, 1870-1900

Leah Malamut

University of Minnesota

Abstract

In the middle of the nineteenth century, beekeeping in the United States began to change from a pastime to a livelihood, which led to the establishment of nationwide beekeeping periodicals, including the American Bee Journal. As a major channel for information on beekeeping practice and science, ABJ reported on questions, suggestions, and innovations for both novices and experts. While most of the writers and editors of ABJ were men, by 1871 women were actively encouraged to engage in beekeeping and numerous letters and articles were authored by women and directed toward women. Many pieces extolled gentle virtues that made women well-suited to keeping bees, while others addressed women's practical questions while framing beekeeping as an appropriate and profitable occupation for women. At the same time, some women used their knowledge of gender dynamics among bees to consider the status of human women, contributing to a longer discussion about the social and political implications of the queen bee "ruling" the hive.
As part of a larger dissertation project on the history of bees and beekeeping, this paper will examine the role of women in the growth of the American beekeeping community in the late nineteenth century. ABJ articles from both male and female beekeepers shed light on some of the many strategies women used during this period to establish niches of independent income and enter male spaces. As a space for sharing common interests, men and women contributing to ABJ discussed the natural history of bees in relationship to sex and gender concerns. Shifting social dynamics allowed men and women alike to use their expertise to consider the long and profound connection between humans and honey bees.

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Presenter 4

Sentinels in the Dark of Night: Medicine and the Ambulance Dog in the First World War

Aparna Nair

University of Oklahoma-Norman

Abstract

The 'war dog's roles, agency and contributions in conflict has been the subject of an expanding body of work'. This paper focuses on a specific subset of these working dogs-the ambulance or Red Cross dogs. I argue for a distinction between the soldier dog and the ambulance dogs-whose genealogy lay with rescue breeds. This paper examines the growing importance of the dog as medical technology from the end of the 19th century onwards and how the Great War transformed the range of human-animal interactions in the specific context of medicine and trauma care in the field and in the hospital. This paper argues that dogs' role in the structure of military medical care in the field were escalated by the course of the war and that the ambulance dog came to be understood as living technology in the battlefield. This paper also examines the spread of the trained ambulance dog from Europe to North America as a result of the war. Canine units were established in multiple armies in North America and Europe in the wake of the First World War to serve as 'ambulance' dogs and also became part of dedicated units. This in turn provoked a series of conversations around the ideal breeds suited for ambulance dog work in a transnational 'scientific' discourse on breeding. The paper also traces what these shifts in human-animal interactions meant for dogs themselves.

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