Childhoodnature Animal Relations: Section Overview

  • Tracy Young
  • Pauliina RautioEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


The “animal turn” in academia has been described by researchers like Weil (J Fem Cult Stud 21(2):1–23, 2010) as an increasing scholarly interest in the status of animals beyond that of the utilitarian or agricultural scientific study of animals and the larger-than-human degraded ecological times we are living in. The human condition has always been defined and studied in relation to the animal, from ancient to contemporary posthuman thinkers, where the study of animal relations forms a large component of this ontological turn, with shifting aspirations to decenter anthropocentric interactions and challenge human assumptions of more-than-human lives. Human-animal studies, while still firmly planted within disciplinary margins, “have been edging towards the mainstream” (Ritvo, Environ Hist 9(2):204–220, 2004, p. 205), becoming increasingly popular, respected topics of inquiry (Ritvo, Daedalus 136(4):118–122, 2007). Creative opportunities for experimentation therefore exist where new terms, becomings, and conceptualizations are underway.

The chapters in this section provoke a diversity of such (re)thinking of child-animal relations within Western families, communities, and education where the complex relationships with children, animals, and environments provide a space for ethical considerations to the social positioning of animals in education and society. The chapters address ideas, conceptualizations, and possibilities of alternative ontologies with some authors venturing into pedagogical territory that attempts to reshape pedagogy and practice. Authors grapple with the taken-for-granted interspecies relationships in their messy, complex, and multiple forms, to look beyond to see the hidden, the marginalized, the unexplained, and the ill-considered. This questioning of multiple relatings has the potential to (re)imagine new models, theories, and ways of crossing boundaries that blur the illusion of separation between children, nature, and animals, where animals can be elevated as crucial components of living together in perilous times. As section editors who engage with human-animal research, ethics of concern, and activism in our work and everyday lives, we acknowledge the “contradictory foundations” of the animal question, and this is reflected in the diverse and sometimes opposing contributions of the chapters in this section. Readers will find a choice of theoretical, educational, and sociocultural representation and discussion in these writings, and this introduction offers signposts to guide the reader through the twists and turns. The authors enhance the explosive range of human-animal studies now underway in diverse disciplines, including arts, humanities, media studies, science, and social geographies, drawing attention to the question of the animal that is under-researched and underrepresented in education. The chapters in this section of the handbook offer alternatives to humanistic thought and actions, and our hope is that these contributions will legitimize the study of human-animal relations, prompting others to join us in research and practice that embraces ethical multispecies futures.


Human-animal More-than-human Human-animal relations Child-animal relations Multispecies ethnography Animal death Interspecies education and early childhood education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Pauliina Rautio
    • 1
  • Tracy Young
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Swinbourne UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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