Stories of Animal Passports

Tracing Disease, Movements, and Identities


  • Lynda Birke
  • Tora Holmberg Uppsala University
  • Kirrilly Thompson



Like us, some kinds of animals require passports to enable movements  across national borders. Passports tell all kinds of multispecies stories, in which humans and nonhumans are entangled in myriad ways. But what is a passport — human or nonhuman? What kind of symbolic, legal, material, relational identity and not least control and disciplinary work do they “do”? The article departs from autoethnographical notes in a European context, and discusses these questions in dialogue with animal studies literature and actor network theory.

So, what kinds of stories do passports tell? In the article, the authors consider first what role passports serve, and then analyze their function, in various forms of surveillance — around disease and global bio-security, around mobility/travel, and around identities. Finally, some issues raised about technologies of identification, and what these say about identity and belonging, particularly with respect to human-animal relationships, are discussed. For all that these passports signify human-animal separation, they also signify the shared, mobile enmeshment of humans and animals in citizenship as well as social life.


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Author Biographies

Tora Holmberg, Uppsala University

Tora Holmberg is a sociologist and Associate Professor at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interests include human/animal relations in various contexts, and her cultural sociology approach combines STS, urban theory, animal studies and feminist theory. Holmberg is currently working with a project on urban animals and crowding. She is a co-editor of Humanimalia.

Kirrilly Thompson

Dr Kirrilly Thompson is a cultural anthropologist and senior research fellow in CQUni's Appleton Institute in Adelaide, South Australia. Her research interests coalesce around human-animal relations, risk and culture. She has conducted research on mounted bullfighting in Spain (el rejoneo) and show jumping in Europe. Her Australian anthrozoological research projects include pet bed-sharing practices, dog-bite intervention programmes and horse keeping beliefs and behaviours. Kirrilly is currently leading a three year Australian Research Council project titled 'Should I stay or should I go? Increasing natural disaster preparedness and survival through animal attachment' (DECRA 2013). The project will consider ways in which animal attachment can be re-considered as a protective factor for human survival of fires and floods.




How to Cite

Birke, Lynda, Tora Holmberg, and Kirrilly Thompson. 2014. “Stories of Animal Passports: Tracing Disease, Movements, and Identities”. Humanimalia 5 (1):1-27.