Parallel Lives

Human–Cow Entanglements at a Finnish Prison Farm




Conservation, Multispecies ethnography, Animal studies, Bovine biopolitics, Feminist cultural science studies


This article investigates cow caretaking practices in a Finnish prison and living gene bank. Building upon work in Feminist Science and Technology Studies, Critical Animal Studies, and Critical Heritage Studies, we seek to understand how human and nonhuman animal lives are partially folded together, while also discussing the worlds cultivated in a space of conservation and incarceration. Empirically, the article draws upon multispecies ethnography undertaken during two separate visits to Pelso Prison in central Finland. We conclude that cows emerge as not simply working animals. They are viewed as valuable genetic material vital to the Finnish nation state as well as given names and granted personalities. Meanwhile, in the company of an endangered cattle breed, inmates gain new value as care-workers and conservationists “saving” the breed. In this space of exception, precarious interspecies lives are interwoven.


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Author Biographies

Charlotte Kroløkke, University of Southern Denmark

Charlotte Kroløkke is an interdisciplinary feminist cultural studies scholar. She has been Head of the Cultural Heritage Package in the 3MC Traditional Mountain Cattle project as well as Principal Investigator of several interdisciplinary research projects on reproduction and reproductive technologies. She has been editor-in-chief of the Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, and author or co-author of more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles as well as several books and book chapters.

Mervi Honkatukia, Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), Norway

Mervi Honkatukia, PhD, heads NordGen’s livestock department. Her expertise covers the conservation and promotion of animal genetic resources and their cultural heritage as well as the genetic diversity of domestic animals. The adaptation of domestic animals to changing environmental conditions has been one of her research topics. At NordGen Farm Animals, she has led several pan-Nordic networks with a goal of sustainable use of genetic resources and ensuring the preservation of native Nordic breeds for future use.

Photo taken by Charlotte Kroløkke, February 2022.




How to Cite

Kroløkke, Charlotte, and Mervi Honkatukia. 2023. “Parallel Lives: Human–Cow Entanglements at a Finnish Prison Farm”. Humanimalia 14 (1):281–313.