The third biennial “Living with Animals” international conference at Eastern Kentucky University will center on animals in art and living with horses.
But those are just two of the dozens of topics that will explored March 22-26 at EKU, home to the world’s first undergraduate degree program in animal studies. Approximately 150 presenters and attendees are expected to attend from at least 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Australia, in addition to Eastern students.
The theme this year is “Co-Existence,” and, much like EKU’s unique academic program, the first of its kind in the world, the conference will be multidisciplinary in content, blending psychology, biology, sociology, anthropology, gender studies, literature, the arts, law, agriculture, ethics and other disciplines.
Animals in art take center stage for the first day and a half of the conference, with an exhibit and numerous sessions devoted to the topic, as organized by artist and art historian Julia Schlosser. The “Living with Horses” portion of the conference, March 23-24, is organized by Gala Argent and Angela Hofstetter.
“Art devoted to animals has been devalued in the past but, recently, people are looking more at animals in art,” said Dr. Robert Mitchell, coordinator of EKU’s animal studies program and co-organizer of the conference along with faculty colleague Dr. Radhika Makecha. “Artists offer a unique vision, in that they can present varied ways of thinking about the subject.”
Keynote presenters are: Keri Cronin, “Looking Back: The Art of Early Animal Advocacy Campaigns”; Brett Mizelle, “Killing in Jest, Dying in Earnest: Human-Squirrel Entanglements in Past and Present”; Michal Piotr Pregowski, “Social Practices of Grief and Commemoration of Companion Animals across Cultures”; and April D. Truitt, “U.S. Primate Sanctuaries: The Next 30 Years.”
Other session topics throughout the conference run the gamut: Thinking Like a Sand Crab; Maritude: Misogyny in the Horse World; I Ain’t No Rat: The Muskrat Manifesto; Challenges and Opportunities Facing the Horse Industry in Eastern Kentucky; Imagining Animals to Represent Disaster: Japanese Fiction after Fukushima; A History of Roadkill; Co-Existence: The White House Squirrels and the American Presidents; Teachers’ Pets: The Use of Animals in American Classrooms; and many more.
Like the EKU academic program, the focus of the conference is on human-animal interaction, the efforts by mankind to understand animals, and how to teach university courses about animals and animal-human interaction.
The conference will also include a panel discussion marking the 25th anniversary of the journal Society and Animals.
All sessions will be held in the Perkins Building, except for a Chautauqua lecture on Thursday, March 23, by art history and animal studies expert Steve Baker. Baker will address “The Disorderly Animal in Contemporary Art” when he speaks at 7:30 p.m. in O’Donnell Hall of the Whitlock Building. His lecture is free and open to the public.
Also, the final day will include a trip to the Kentucky Equine Humane Center and Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville.
To see a complete schedule of the conference as well as abstracts from the presenters, visit livingwithanimals.eku.edu.
Approximately 100 students are majoring in animal studies at EKU. For more information about the University’s animal studies program, visit psychology.eku.edu/animal-studies-major.