Presentation Taynna M. Marino – The ideas of empathy in animal history


In the theory of history, empathy has often been a subject of research interest in examining cross or intercultural relationships and in understanding the experiences of historical subjects. However, this investigation is restricted to human-human interactions and rarely addresses the more-than-human world, despite the growing interest in such topics within the humanities. Although existing literature is mainly related to the idea of empathy as an innately human capacity, studies conducted in the last three decades in animal behavior and neuroscience indicated that empathy is a shared ability between humans and nonhumans with developed neural systems that plays an essential role in survival and cooperation among species.

In this presentation, I will analyze how empathy appears in the works of scholars who self-identify as “animal historians,” especially in theoretical discussions about the animals’ point of view and animal agency. I will reflect on how the studies conducted by animal historians could influence historical theory today. I am particularly interested in an “animal-sensitive history” (Swart 2016) that would take into account the role of empathy in historical research and understanding.

I will pose the following research questions: What notions of empathy are present in animal history? What do they imply? Is historical thinking in need of another idea of empathy that takes into account animal experiences and transspecies relationships? Or, should historians find alternatives for empathy since the concept fails to provide solutions to anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism that are fundaments of historical thinking?



Taynna M. Marino is pursuing her Ph.D. in History at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. She is a member of the Laboratory for the Study of Theory and History of Historiography (Lethis) at the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil. Her research interests revolve around historical theory, focusing on non-anthropocentric and non-Western approaches to the past. Her doctoral dissertation investigates the notion of transspecies and transcultural empathy in contemporary historical theory. She recently published: “The role of empathy in bridging Western and Indigenous knowledges: Dominick LaCapra and Ailton Krenak” (Rethinking History, vol. 26, no. 4, 2022: 569-595).


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April 21, 2023, 4 pm – 6 pm BST


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