04/11/2011 11:46 | Ester Ehnsmyr

Bringing animals in – ethnographic challenges in animal studies

After two days of intriguing discussions about the challenges and possibilities of methods which work with animal presence, the Zoo-ethnographies conference ended with parallel workshops around the many questions raised.

But first out on the second day of the conference was keynote Morten Tonnessen, from University of Tartu, who talked about the symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Norway. As oppose to the Swedish wolf debate, where the dog is the prime animal being placed in conflict with the wolf, the debate in Norway seems to perceive the sheep-wolf issue as a much bigger problem.

As Morten Tonnessen pointed out, wolves and sheep have historically often been juxtaposed, especially in the context of the Bible. And in cultural terms, hardly any animals are as loaded with symbolic value as the wolf and the sheep. “And the shared importance is no coincidence, since the symbolism of the two animals has frequently developed in explicit opposition to each other”, Morten Tonnessen writes in his paper.

The second keynote for the day was Pär Segerdahl, from the Centre for Gender Research, who talked about apes as co-writers to scientific papers. Read more about his talk in our news list.

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