ANIMALIA – Animal Biographies: A network of agencies in the making of early modern empires


ANIMALIA – Animal Biographies: A network of agencies in the making of early modern empires is two-year exploratory research project funded by CHAM – Centre for the Humanities, which seeks to reflect upon the history and the afterlives of early modern European empires through an explicit focus on the interactions and relations between humans and non-human animals.


Project description


Animals have always played an active, significant and meaningful role in human societies, whether as cultural resources, with important symbolic, mythological or religious meanings; as commodities and sources of valuable merchandise; or even by inhabiting and occupying the same spaces as humans, with whom relations of coexistence, antagonism or interdependence were established. Animals and their existential realities affect historical events and, throughout history, have often been indissociable from certain choices, preferences, motivations and behavioural patterns adopted and displayed by humans. The Animal Biographies project intends to establish a pan-European network of researchers and institutions to explore the role of non-human animals in the construction of early modern European empires. Drawing extensively from the “animal turn” of recent decades, as well as from environmental humanities and important contemporary discussions on the complex and multifaceted afterlives of European empires, we seek to contribute to current historiographical debates, promoting an intersection between postcolonial discourse, ecocriticism and animal studies problems and methodologies.

The projects has five large vectors of analysis, related to different dimensions of human-animal relations in the early modern period:

1) Moving animals: studies animals as a driving force for human activities and also issues connected to the transport, circulation and keeping of animals;
2) Consumption and commerce: reflects on the extraction, transformation and commodification of animals and their byproducts;
3) Representation and symbolic values: examines the cultural role of animals and the various ways in which they have been understood and perceived by

4) Knowledge and natural history: analyses the production and circulation of European and non-European discourses on animals, underlining the role of animals as active participants in the human construction of knowledge on the natural world;
5) Healing animals: focuses on animals and their byproducts in the production of medicinal and therapeutic substances, and also animals as causes of disease.


Start   .   2022
Duration   .   24 meses

Principal Investigator   .   Nina Vieira (CHAM)



Research Unit

CHAM — Centro de Humanidades



Nina Vieira (CHAM) . Coordenator

Catarina Santana Simões (CHAM)

Carla Vieira (CHAM)