Pavlov in St Petersburg: Human-Animal Relations in the Kingdom of Dogs

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


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 paper applies the conceptual lens of the ‘animal turn’ to physiologist-cum-psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s (1849-1936) 'classical conditioning' experiments with dogs in late nineteenth and early twentieth century St Petersburg (Petrograd/Leningrad). Pavlov and his co-workers conducted experiments with thousands of dogs in his laboratory complex (which one visitor referred to as the 'kingdom of dogs') over a fifty-plus year career. The presentation will draw on the author’s research into the human-animal relationships at their heart, based on historical and biographical sources. 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. Finally, we will reflect on our ongoing use of creative methodologies and multi-media (sequential art and a diorama-based exhibition) as a way of exploring and communicating animal research in this context, including locating animal histories in their geographical, political and cultural context.
Period29 Jun 2023
Event titleCrossing Boundaries: Human-Animal Relations from Post-Petrine Russia to the Soviet State (1725–1991
Event typeConference
LocationLeipzig, GermanyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • animals
  • history
  • animal studies
  • posthumanities
  • animal history
  • psychology