Living Machines with Gentle Looks

Materiality and Animal Body in Modernizing Finnish Animal Husbandry


  • Taija Kaarlenkaski University of Eastern Finland



This paper discusses the modernization of cattle tending in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Finland from viewpoints of materiality and embodiment. In accordance with new materialist theories, both human and bovine bodies are seen as material-discursive phenomena constituted in the entanglement of material and cultural practices. The paper investigates how bovine bodies, embodiment, and agency were represented and conceptualized, and what kind of qualities “good cows” had at the time. The materials used in the study consist of answers sent to an ethnographic questionnaire, as well as ten cattle tending guidebooks, all dating back to the turn of the twentieth century. It is argued in the paper that questions of agency and subjectivity in modernizing animal husbandry were multidimensional, and that the consequences of increasing objectification of bovine bodies were not just negative for cattle.


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Author Biography

Taija Kaarlenkaski, University of Eastern Finland

Taija Kaarlenkaski, PhD, is currently working as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Joensuu campus. In her research project, funded by the Academy of Finland (2016-2019), she examines the impacts of technologization and modernization on cattle husbandry and the concomitant human-animal relationships in Finland from the late 19th century until the 21st century. In 2012, she received her PhD in Folklore Studies at the UEF. In the doctoral dissertation, she investigated the construction of human-cow relationships in written narratives gathered by a public writing competition. Her current research interests include posthumanist theories and new materialism, gendered human-animal relations and the effects of the use of technology on human-cattle relationships.




How to Cite

Kaarlenkaski, Taija. 2019. “Living Machines With Gentle Looks: Materiality and Animal Body in Modernizing Finnish Animal Husbandry”. Humanimalia 11 (1):30-63.