Accepted paper:

The human-horse relationship and pregnancy in conflict

Authors:

Nora Schuurman (University of Turku)
Maarit Sireni (University of Eastern Finland)

Paper short abstract:

In this presentation, we ask how the human–horse relationship and pregnancy affect each other while experienced simultaneously. The data used consists of a blog kept by a Finnish mother and horse owner about her pregnancy. According to the analysis, the two bodily states are incompatible.

Paper long abstract:

Emotions, embodiment, and a sharing of the everyday life with the horse are considered central to the human-horse relationship. Transformations in the roles and situations in life of the owner of the horse have consequences on the relationship, an example of which is pregnancy. The contemporary performance of pregnancy concentrates on a celebration of being pregnant within a culture of consumption. This performance is easily disrupted by controversial aspects of identity, such as an active, embodied relationship to an animal other. In this presentation, we ask how two bodily states, the human-horse relationship and pregnancy, affect each other while experienced simultaneously and performed in the virtual space of the blogosphere. The study derives from recent discussions within human-animal and feminist studies about embodiment, performativity and relationality, as well as from existing literature on the production of gender in the context of equestrianism, pregnancy as a performative process, and the status of animals as family members. The data used consists of a blog kept by a Finnish mother and horse owner, in which pregnancy reformulates the blogger's embodied relationship to her horse and vice versa. In the blog, motherhood structures the blogger's relationship to her horse in a significant way, while the human-horse relationship is an integral part of her emerging identity as a mother. According to the analysis, the two bodily states are incompatible and lead to a crisis in the human-animal relationship, and to a performative instability regarding both performances.

panel P093
The meaning of horses: perspectives on intra-species communicative becoming