Central Eurasian Environmental and Animal Histories 
Patryk Reid (University of Pittsburgh)
Jonathan Schlesinger (Indiana University--Bloomington)
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Start time:
28 October, 2018 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
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Long Abstract

Scholars of Central Eurasia have long acknowledged the importance of environment and animals, particularly within the contexts of livestock, pastures, and hunting. The growing fields of environmental and animal histories offer new methodologies to reexamine the important relationship between environment, animals, and humans. Our panel uses environmental and animal history to challenge some commonly held ideas within Central Eurasian scholarship.

Our scholars use a mix of literary, archival, folkloric, and oral sources to examine animal and environmental history over multiple regions and periods. Christopher Atwood shows that rather than existing with a stable environment, the Mongols radically reshaped environments in their empire like early modern empires. Marissa Smit uses the legend of the Seven Sleepers to examine the role of dogs in medieval Anatolia and complicates the predominant narratives of dogs in historical and contemporary societies. Kenneth Linden examines the history of the wolf in Mongolia and shows that the spiritual connection that is often emphasized is less common than violent conflict. Together these presentations will show the importance of animal and environmental history in Central Eurasian studies and how these important fields can shed new light on our understanding of Central Eurasian history.

Our panel demonstrates that by using Central Eurasian history we can challenge and refine many common ideas in environmental history, particularly problems of Western-centrism. Topics like imperial ecology, companion animals, and predator extermination are usually studied in Western, Christian contexts. Our research shows that environmental and animal histories of Central Eurasia provides a rich opportunity to engage with and complicate narratives in our region and the rest of the world.

Accepted papers: