Pavlov and the kingdom of dogs: telling different human-animal stories

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk


Invited talk - Centre for Human-Animal Studies

The growth of Human-Animal Studies and critical variations, multi-species and posthuman scholarship reflects an ‘animal turn’ offering important theoretical, ethical and methodological challenges to humanities, science and social science disciplines, though psychology, in particular, has been slow to engage with these developments. This talk applies the conceptual lens of the ‘animal turn’ to physiologist-cum-psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s (1849-1936) 'classical conditioning' experiments with dogs. Pavlov and his co-workers conducted experiments with thousands of dogs in his St Petersburg laboratory complex (which one visitor referred to as the 'kingdom of dogs') over a fifty-plus year career. The presentation will draw on historical and biographical sources to create a portrait of the lives of these dogs. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway, Vivienne Despret and others, it will highlight the various, shifting dimensions of the human-nonhuman animal entanglements at the core of a fascinating experimental assemblage - incorporating bodies and bodily fluids, technologies, relationships, propaganda and secrets, against a backdrop of enormous social, political and scientific upheaval. This portrait is contrasted with contemporary retellings of Pavlov's experiments which ignore or are indifferent to the complexities of that relationship. Paying attention to nonhuman others that constitute animal experimentation in psychology, historically, today, and in retellings, is argued to be an important step, not least for psychology itself. It prompts a radical shift in the way it might approach the lives of nonhuman animals, more in keeping with promising developments in other disciplines.
Period23 Feb 2022
Held atEdge Hill University, United Kingdom


  • human-animal relations
  • animal studies
  • Pavlov
  • critical animal studies
  • dogs
  • psychology
  • experimental psychology