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Speak19


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Saddled with responsibility? Understanding agency and power in horse–human relations 
Convenors:
Helen Wadham (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Nora Schuurman (University of Turku)
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Stream:
Who Speaks and for Whom?
Sessions:
Thursday 1 April, 11:15-12:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel invites papers that explore the theme of responsibility in relation to horses. Animal agency is embedded within diverse and uneven relations of power. What do horse–human relations teach us about how to understand and exercise responsibility in more-than-human ways?

Long Abstract

We have long recognised the socioeconomic and cultural significance of horses. Our shared relations have transformed economies and shaped societies. However, there is a growing understanding that horses are more than living machines, mere tools at the service of humans.

We increasingly recognise horses as social actors, who shape their own and other lives. But this raises fresh challenges. In particular, acknowledging their agency risks making horses complicit in any suffering or exploitation they may experience. During training, for example, horses may be blamed for causing injury to humans or themselves.

Animal agency – like human agency – is thus embedded within diverse and uneven relations of power. These power dynamics may be visible, albeit often in subtle ways, even within harmonious interactions, where the horse displays what Despret calls secret agency. The concept of responsibility provides an opportunity to reflect on this interplay between agency and power.

This panel invites submissions from researchers who are interested in reflecting on what horse–human relations might teach us about how to understand and exercise responsibility in more-than-human ways. What does responsibility mean within horse–human relations? Who is responsible and to whom? How can we speak for horses? How can we place horses themselves at the centre of our analyses?

Papers may address, but are not limited to:

- training (of horses and/or riders)

- equestrian sports

- equine care practices

- equine death

- equine rescue

- horse-breeding

- horse-trade

- horseracing

- equine-assisted activities/therapies

- equine tourism

- working with horses

Accepted papers:

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