The Lion’s Historian: Animal Histories from the South
Taking the African epigram “Until the lion has an historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter” as its starting point, this seminar discusses how we may become the lion’s historians. Prof. Sandra Swart argues that including other species in understanding the past is another way of ‘doing history’ and not necessarily a separate ‘animal turn’ in historiography. Instead, she argues that we allow the creatures on the edge of our vision to move into our disciplinary line of sight. This has been seen previously in social history, first with workers, then with women, and now animals. My aim is to start telling a social (rather than natural) history of the human – animal relationship.
We can offer more than the natural history of animals if we can show that it is both ideographic and diachronic: It changes over place and time. We can then tell a social history of animals – albeit most often seen through the eyes of their enemies. Animals are as historical as we are ourselves. They, like us, are products of our own biology and evolutionary pasts, but also products of our changing environments and our shifting socio-political present, within cultures that change over time and that comprise individuals who do not conform to stereotype. In short, they both experience change and effect change – they have history.