November 6, 2013
It seems right that the theme this year for the Chicago Humanities Festival should be “Animals: What Makes us Human.” This city, after all, used to be called (and maybe is still called) hog butcher for the world.
So all kinds of people are coming: Sherman Alexie, Bill T. Jones, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, Atul Gawande, Martina Navratilova.
And Peter Mancall. He’s an early American historian, someone who has been on the Daily Show, someone who puts animals front and center, contextualizing the relations among the various subsets of the human populations against various accounts of the nonhuman world: animals in the wild, animals domesticated, as well as prodigies and monsters rumored to exist. Swine, brought to the New World by European colonizers and subsequently tended (or not tended) by African slaves, American-born creoles, and native peoples, can tell us about race and geopolitics, imperial histories of the Atlantic world and local ecologies of plants and animals.
Visual archives are crucial here, along with non-English languages to complement the non-human world. The dinner companion that Peter requested when he visited Yale was Rolena Adorno, from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
The title of his paper: “Pigs for Historians.”