How do animals use the things that people build, and how do people react to animals making their homes near ours?
The project ‘Histories of animals, technological infrastructure, and making more-than-human homes in the modern age’ (AtHome) examines animals as users of human-made things, from birdhouses to offshore oil platforms. The project team, led by Professor Dolly Jørgensen (UiS) who specialises in environmental history and Science & Technology Studies, will look at how animals are domesticated by technologies, how animals use those technologies for their own purposes, and how infrastructure becomes part of animals' environment. As conflicts arise more often with animals in our increasingly infrastructural world, we need more nuanced understandings of how animals can be 'at home' with technology just like humans.
The project ‘Histories of animals, technological infrastructure, and making more-than-human homes in the modern age’ (AtHome) proposes that we need to change our thinking about the historical relationship between animals and infrastructure. Infrastructure needs to be understood as a ‘natural’ component of animal lifeworlds as homes rather than relegating it to an ‘artificial’ or diminished state of nature. This does not mean that all infrastructures are good for their animal inhabitants, just as all homes are not healthy for their human ones. But it does mean that we need to re-examine how animals interact with, use, and co-opt infrastructure for their own purposes as a first step before we can consider how they might be made better. The project asks: How can we understand animals as being at home with human-built infrastructure? This question will be answered through three concepts: new ideas of what domestication includes, animals as users of technology, and infrastructures as part of animal habitat. AtHome pushes the boundaries of scholarship in the history of environment and technology by putting these together into one package to transform how we write intersectional histories of infrastructure and histories of animals. AtHomes will demonstrate that just as humans can be ‘at home’ with technology, so can animals.
AtHome uses two deep case studies to address the above research questions and reach the novel objectives: one on ocean infrastructures and the other on urban buildings. While exhibiting radically different configurations of actors and infrastructures which are interesting historically in and of themselves, the cases together demonstrate that the hypotheses are valid across a wide range of settings. The case studies grapple with all three of the project’s central concepts (domestication, users, and habitats) to create a robust framework for understanding infrastructures as more-than-human homes.