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This two-day interdisciplinary workshop aims to get a better understanding of other animals’ perspectives on humans and the implications of these perspectives for developing better relations.

Event details of Speaking about the humans. Animal perspectives on the multispecies world 
Start date 17 March 2022
End date 18 March 2022

Prairie dogs discuss humans in detail. Elephants have a word for humans. Sperm whales warn each other about human attacks. Many if not most more-than-human animals need to deal with human intrusion in their lives in some way – as companions, workers, prey, for tourism or in other roles – and communicate with one another and humans about this. They do so in order to survive, but perhaps sometimes also to maintain their culture and communities, out of affection or for fun.  

For the purposes of this workshop, we propose to understand ‘speaking about humans’ broadly such as (combination of) sounds, bodily movements, facial expressions (kinesics), touch (haptics), space (proxemics), and sensorial capacities. Examples to think of are throwing feces to human visitors in zoos, leaving one’s habitat, changing one’s color, misleading humans, or passing on cultural, including linguistic, knowledge in embodied ways. 

This one-day interdisciplinary workshop aims to get a better understanding of other animals’ perspectives on humans and the implications of these perspectives for developing better relations. We invite presentations on the following and other questions: 

  • How do we know that animals speak about humans? Do they speak as an individual and/or as a group? Are animal languages species-specific, communal or individual? 
  • What could be humans’ ideologies/impediments for (not) recognizing that animals speak about them? 
  • What do animals say about humans, and how do they say it and how do we know?  
  • How can we develop new listening practices and (how) should we speak back? 
  • What is the role of anthropomorphism in better understanding other animals? What are possible nonhuman animal equivalents of this practice? 
  • What are the ethical and political implications of the fact that animals speak about humans? Are their messages always political? 
  • Do (animal) scientists/humans recognize their own language as violent? Should they?  
  • How can animal perspectives inform our ideas about just multispecies societies? Should they? 
  • Do we need new interspecies languages and/or cultural practices for the Anthropocene? 

This workshop will take place online. Invited speakers will be asked to present a 20-minute paper. To register, please send a message to Organisation: Eva Meijer (University of Amsterdam) . Confirmed participants: Irene Pepperberg (Brandeis University and Harvard University), Con Slobodchikoff (Northern Arizona University). 

This event is hosted by ASCA, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 


Speaking about the humans: Animal perspectives on the multispecies world

March 16-18

Location: University of Amsterdam via zoom,

Time zone: Central European Time

March 16th

7-8 pm

Keynote address: Con Slobodchikoff: Decoding the Language of Prairie Dogs

March 17th

9.45 am

Opening words

10-12 Session 1: Animal Politics and Multispecies Communities

We Can (Refuse) Consent, If You Just Listen!  - Serrin Rutledge-Prior and Rebecca Hendershott

Should Animals have a Right to Freedom of Expression? - Katharina Braun

‘The parallel world in which all other animals exist’: How chickens rebuild community after humans. - Catherine Oliver

Elderly persons and animals - Elin Pöllänen and Walter Osika

Lunch break 12-13

13-15 Session 2: (Not) Knowing what animals say

What is the basis of mutual interspecies communication and understanding? How can we know for certain what animals think and feel - Jonas Dietz

Evolutionary and ecological relevance for hetero-specific and individual recognition in animal species - Liv Baker and Lysanne Snijders

Reality construction, reduction, dominance, overlaps, and co-existence: reapproaching questions of intra- and interspecies communication - Jean-Pierre Imbrogiano

Closer to Animals, Plants, and Rocks: Questions on Modes of Existence - hh Kuipers

15-15.30 break


Keynote address: Irene Pepperberg

Interspecies Communication between Humans and Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus): When Nonhumans Can Actually Use Human Speech

16.30-16.45 break

16.45-18.15 Session 3: Multispecies poetics

He was speaking volumes … Or: This is what is wrong with you - Mara-Daria Cojocaru

Transparency, Opacity, and Animal Languages: Towards a Multispecies Relational Poetics - Omar Bachour

A separate world - Susan Haris

March 18th

8.30-10.00 Session 1: Animal technologies and multispecies design I

Interspecies Cultures and Future Design - Dan Parker and Stanislav Roudavski

Multispecies Urban Politics with Bees, Birds, and Trees - Hira Sheikh, Marcus Foth, and Peta Mitchell

Helping humans listen and respond to more-than-human voices through interspecies information systems - Dirk van der Linden

10.00-10-15 break

10.15-11-15 Session 1: Animal technologies and multispecies design II

Happier than a Seagull with a French Fry – Bird-Human Relations in Selfies with Seagulls - Tiina Salmia

The interaction between cow, cow brush and me. How can we develop new listening practices and (how) should we speak back? - Samar Khan

11.15-11.30 break

11.30-12.30 Roundtable: How can we let the other animals determine the research questions we ask? Participants: Leonie Cornips (cows), Irina Frasin (stray cats).

12.30-13.30 Lunch break

13.30-15.30 Session 2: Signals, signs and codes: Questions of translation

“It it not a language, but a signal code” - Chloe Mondeme

Broadcasting and the Animal Public - Brett Mills

Octopus Camouflage: Unsettling Conceptual Boundaries Between Self and Environment - Lijuan Klassen 

Fish Welfare - Becca Franks

15.30-16 break

16-18 Session 3: Recognition and learning to listen to other animals

Listening to the Invisibles: Microbial Commentaries on Human Organized Dairy Production - Sarah Czerny

From Cultural Limitations to Intercultural Relations: Opening Up Western Cultures to Human-Animal Communications - Daphne Brouwer

Animal Language: The Shared Sensory-Conceptual Space of Humans and Animals  - Pablo P. Castelló

How can we develop new listening practices and (how) should we speak back?  - Angeline Siegel

18-18.10 Final comments