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Friday, 26 July 2013

Two reviews conducted for Czech Science Foundation

The last year I've conducted two peer-reviews (of project proposals aiming at getting research funding) for the Czech Science Foundation, in Czech called Grantová agentura České republiky (GAČR). Given that the peer-review is anonymous I cannot provide much detail.

Abstract: "Animal and Eve: How representations of wolves and sheep are used to construct human identities"

Yesterday I wrote and submitted the following abstract to the international workshop "Humanimals: Examining Histories and Productions of Animal-Human Relationships", to be held in Oslo September 26-27th:
Animal and Eve: How representations of wolves and sheep are used to construct human identities
Morten Tønnessen
Associate professor at University of Stavanger (Department of health studies) and Chair of Minding Animals Norway

The questions of the nature of the wolf, sheep, and humans, are methodologically problematic for two different reasons: Human’s nature because we are the topic to be investigated; the wolf’s and the sheep’s nature because we are not wolves nor sheep. However, what we think about what it is like to be a wolf or a sheep actually says a great deal about what it means, for us, to be human.

Wolves and sheep are among the animals that have been the most significant in terms of cultural impact. The animal representations involving these two animals – which are often perceived as being in fundamental opposition to each other – are countless; only a few examples can be mentioned in this paper. These include wolf-derived names from Adolf Hitler to Varg Vikernes, words and expressions (“lone wolf terrorist”), fairy tales and Bible stories, and canine or ovine appearances in a number of contemporary TV series and movies. Whereas the werewolf is conceptually a wolfman, the hilarious 2006 movie Black Sheep introduced the weresheep (and thus the sheepman).

In popular culture, the wolf symbolizes evil, bottomless hunger, and raw sexuality. The fact that in old Norse “vargr” (cf. the Swedish varg), the word for wolf, meant “outlaw”, and was also used in the sense of “murderer”, “slayer”, is telling of the way we routinely attribute human characteristics to wolves, and vice versa. To some extent the same can be said about the sheep, which traditionally symbolizes that which is to be protected, flock animals, and stupidity.

This paper will draw on semiotics, philosophy, and Human-Animal Studies at large.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Minding Animals Norway's 3rd research seminar to be held August 23rd in Oslo

Minding Animals Norway's 3rd annual research seminar will be held in Oslo on Friday August 23rd. The deadline for submission of abstracts - in Norwegian or another Scandinavian language - is August 15th. The Call For Papers is available in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme.


General Meeting of Minding Animals Norway to be held in Oslo August 23rd

The General Meeting of Minding Animals Norway will be held in Oslo on Friday August 23rd. The Norwegian language call for GM is available in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme.


First newsletter of Minding Animals Norway distributed

Two days ago I composed and distributes the very first newsletter of Minding Animals Norway (in Norwegian) - 6 pp. The newsletter is sent to members, some 33 people by the last count. The MAN newsletter will appear approximately twice every semester (= four times a year).

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

HAS anthology mentioned in letter to the editor in Dagbladet

The recently published Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology I am a co-editor of, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], is mentioned in a letter to the editor by Ragnhild Sollund and published in Norway's third biggest daily, Dagbladet, today, entitled "Kunnskapsløst om dyr" [loosely; Ignorant about animals]. Excerpt (my translation):
If Forr [pictured below] wants to get informed about easily available Norwegian research in this field [Human-Animal Studies], he can in addition [to reading the debated special issue of Sosiologi idag] read the book Hvem er villest i landet her? (eds. Ragnhild Sollund,  Morten Tønnessen and Guri Larsen, published by Spartacus/Scandinavian Academic Press this spring).

See also:


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Result of the by-election to the UiS board November 2012

The by-election for deputy representatives for temporarily employed education and research staff in the board of University of Stavanger was conducted November 15-20th 2012. The result:
  • Clemens Furnes (Post.Doc. at Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Post.Doc) was elected first deputy representative, and 
  • Kristian Thorsen (PhD student at Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) was elected second deputy representative.
See also:

No funding for PERLAR (November 2012)

The application for research funding from SAMKUL (Samfunnsutviklingens kulturelle forutsetninger - the cultural preconditions of societal development) in which I was involved as a prospective Assistant Project Manager, with Paul Thibault as Project Manager, "Perceptions of Animal Agency: Large Predators and other Cultured Animals" (PERLAR), did not get funding.

Here's an overview of the 15 projects that did get funding - announced in November 2012 (as the overview shows, no applications from University of Stavanger or University of Agder were successful).

See also:

Monday, 22 July 2013

Board meeting of UiS attended October 2012

On October 5th 2012 I took part in my first board meeting for the University of Stavanger.

The agenda included: 
  • establishment, restructuring and discontinuation of studies (where the discussion resulted in establishment of a new master degree in documentary production, against the recommendation of the university director)
  • limits (number of study places) for admissions in the academic year 2013/2014 [where I did not object to the university director's recommendation to prolong the web-based bachelor in nursing for another year, against the Department of health studies' and the faculty's expressed desire]
  • employment structure for teaching and research staff (where my statements and questions resulted in the (oral) assurance that only externally financed positions may be pure research positions)
  • and reorganization of the 200+ strong Division for shared resources ("Felles ressurssenter") (which I supported).
[This is part of my catch-up blogging]

See also:

Book manuscript submitted (December 2012)

On December 2nd 2012 Ragnhild Sollund, Guri Larsen and I submitted the full manuscript of the Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man] to Spartacus forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press. 

The book was published on May 15th 2013.

[This is part of my catch-up blogging]

Sunday, 21 July 2013

References to "Umwelt ethics" and "Umwelt transitions" in Favareau's "Commentary Bibliography and Further Readings"

A number of references to my 2003 article "Umwelt ethics" (Sign Systems Studies 31 (1): 281-299) and my 2009 article "Umwelt transitions: Uexküll and environmental change" (Biosemiotics 2 (1): 47-64) are included in Donald Favareau's bibliography in Essential Readings in Biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary. I'm furthermore listed in the index (see my blogpost "References" from August 2010, which refers to Favareau's mention of Tønnessen 2003 in the same book's "Introduction: An evolutionary history of biosemiotics"). Reference to the bibliography, and the references to my work:
Favareau, Donald 2010. Commentary Bibliography and Further Readings [p. 806 – in section "Additional Chapter References and Further Readings" – Tønnessen 2003 and Tønnessen 2009b; p. 824 – Tønnessen 2003, p. 827 "Commentary Bibliography and Further Readings"/Martin Krampen – Tønnessen 2003 and Tønnessen 2009b; p. 841 "Commentary Bibliography and Further Readings"/Kalevi Kull – Tønnessen 2003 and Tønnessen 2009b; p. 880 Index]. Pp. 797-880 in Favareau (ed.): Essential Readings in Biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary. Berlin: Springer.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Readings 2012

According to my notes, in 2012 I read some 7,310 pages of academic writings (mostly official publications only - in addition I've for instance read some 400 exam papers, totalling perhaps 3,000 pages). Most readings were directly related to my teaching, editing or writing. For the year as a whole Jakob von Uexküll was the scholar most read "about".

Reference to "Umwelt transitions" paper in Cowley article

My article "Umwelt transitions: Uexküll and environmental change" (Biosemiotics 2: 47-64) is referred to in a forthcoming article by Stephen Cowley, entitled "Human judgements and the language sciences".

Friday, 19 July 2013

Debate on human distinctiveness continues in Morgenbladet

The book chapter excerpt by professor in biology Dag Hessen, based on his contribution to Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], sparked debate in the Norwegian weekly Morgenbladet last week, when professor in theology Knut Alfsvåg responded to Hessen with a letter to the editor. This week, in Morgenbladet June 19-25, Hessen replies with a letter to the editor entitled "Mennesker og dyr: like eller likere?" [Humans and animals: Alike, or more alike?].

Reference to Norwegian HAS anthology in Gamlund article

The recently published Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen,menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], edited by Ragnhild Sollund, myself, and Guri Larsen, is referred to via a reference to Gamlund's chapter in that book in the following article by Gamlund, published in a Norwegian philosophy journal:
Gamlund, Espen 2012. Hva er galt med dypøkologien? Noen kommentarer til Arne Næss’ Økosofi T [What’s wrong with deep ecology? Some comments to Arne Næss’ ecosophy T]. Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift 47 (4): 229-244.
See also:

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Follow-up to 2008 "statistician's guide to utopia" article finished - on population

This last night I finished the academic article "Statistikerens guide til utopia II: En demografisk analyse av øko-visjoner om befolkningsnedgang i det tredje årtusen" [The statistician's guide to utopia II: A demographic analysis of eco-visions of population decline in the third millennium], which is to be published early in 2014 (in Norwegian). The first "statistician's guide to utopia" was devoted to the topic of the future of economic growth.

Link to 2005 demography chronicle on Arne Næss in conservative commentator's blogpost

In a recent blog post on Minerva Nett, a Norwegian conservative website, published May 20th, political commentator Jan Arild Snoen links to my 2005 chronicle, published in the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, "Europa i overgangsalderen" [literally: Europe in menopause; in Norwegian something akin to "Europe in transition age"] when he writes about Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss' view that a world population of 50-100 million people in the long run might be desirable. His post is entitled "Var nazistene grønne?" [Were the nazis green?].

Reference to "Umwelt ethics" article/ontological crisis notion in article by Affifi


My 2003 article "Umwelt ethics" (Sign Systems Studies 31(1): 281-299) is cited in the following article:
Affifi, Ramsey 2013. Biological Pedagogy as Concern for Semiotic Growth. Biosemiotics. Published online June 6th 2013 (DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9178-4).
Excerpt:
Habits that encourage future habit-making facilitate the organism's exploration (or development) of its Umwelt landscape. Human actions can either reduce or enable habit-making in other species. Processes such as ecological degradation have broad and violent semiotic impacts and need to be addressed immediately. We are indeed facing an "ontological crisis" (Tønnessen, 2003). But the focus of this paper is on developing a biological pedagogy for our direct encounters with other species. The argument forwarded is that we should encourage novel habit-making.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Norwegian Oil and Gas Association replies to claims about climate benefits of reduced oil production

In a letter to the editor in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, Norway's biggest daily, Tore Killingland, Director for strategy and environment in the Norwegian Oil & Gas Association, indirectly refers to my letter to the editor "Oljekutt og regneferdigheter" [Oil cut and numeracy skills], published June 27th, given that he refers to (my translation) the fact that "Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance Kjetil Lund has had several replies to his letter to the editor in Aftenposten June 25th about Statistics Norway's work paper/discussion memo on oil cut as a climate measure". Killingland's letter to the editor is entitled "Oljekutt og virkeligheten [Oil cut and reality]", and focuses on arguing for the climate benefits of burning natural gas.

Letter to the editor in Norwegian daily Dagbladet: "Aren't animals among society's weakest?"

Today a letter to the editor by me is published in the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, which is Norway's third biggest newspaper. The whole text, entitled "Er ikke dyr blant samfunnets svakeste?" [Aren't animals among society's weakest?] is posted in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme. The letter to the editor is written in response to a commentary article published yesterday, entitled "I bås og samfunn" [In cubicle and society] and written by Dagbladet's staff journalist Gudleiv Forr. Forr comments on the special issue of the Norwegian academic journal Sosiologi idag, "Dyr i samfunnet" [Animals in society], where I contribute with a book review of Ulvekonflikter [Wolf conflicts], written by three sociologists. Forr basically claims that sociologists should not waste their time on animals, but be occupied only with improving conditions for human beings, as they used to.


My letter to the editor is signed M.T., Chair of Minding Animals Norway and Associate professor in philosophy at University of Stavanger.

Updated profile page at UiS

I have updated my profile page at University of Stavanger, amongst other things the 2013 part of "Selected publications".

My bibliography is being updated and a 2013 version will appear online soon. For the latest available version, updated in early 2012, see Scribd.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Interview in Norwegian weekly Mandag Morgen on species conservation and reintroduction

May 24th (in no. 20/2013) an extensive article entitled "- Vil gi mer rom for villmark" [- Wants to give more space for wilderness] was published in the Norwegian weekly Ukebrevet Mandag Morgen. I am one of those interviewed in the 5-page article, referred to as Associate professor at University of Stavanger. In the 1 page or so that reiterates the interview with me, I support George Monbiot's stance with regard to rewilding, but emphasise that today's threatened species should be given priority. In the Norwegian context this includes the four large predators wolves, brown bears, lynx and wolverine, which I stipulate will only be close to universally accepted in a couple of generations. With these predators Norwegian ecosystems will be more complete and self-regulating. I further state that I generally support reintroducing species that have gone functionally or totally extinct in Norway during the last few hundred years but that are today present in other parts of Europe. I also refer to the Anthropocene notion, and state that in my mind exiting the Anthropocene in the long term (i.e., in the scope of a few hundred years) is an ethical imperative.

In 2008 I freelanced writing for the same publication (see searches on correct and incorrect spelling of my name), with a total of 5 articles researched and written.

Norwegian HAS anthology advertised in publisher's PR leaflet

The recently published Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], for which I am one of three editors, is advertised in this spring's PR leaflet issued by the publisher, Spartacus forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press.

Meanwhile, our chronicle posted in the debate forum Nye meninger two days ago has been read by some 600 people online (it has also been published in print, in the daily Klassekampen).

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Norwegian HAS anthology: Reference to two book chapters in introduction chapter

The introduction chapter to the recently published Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology includes references to my two book chapters in the same book. Reference to the introduction chapter (which I have co-authored):
Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen 2013. Introduksjon: Fra bruksdyr til dyreverd [Introduction: From animals of utility to animal dignity] [p. 18, 26 (Tønnessen 2013f) and p. 25 (Tønnessen 2013e)]. In Sollund, Ragnhild, Morten Tønnessen og Guri Larsen (eds) 2013, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man]Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 9-36.
Here "Tønnessen 2013f" refers to "Hvem er villest i landet her? Et ulveliv" [Who is wildest in this country here? A wolf's life] and "Tønnessen 2013e" to "Menneskeveldet" [The human empire]. The references on pp. 25 and 26 envelop half page summaries of the two chapters. Excerpt concerning the reference on p. 18 (my translation):
Both our industrial animal husbandry and our control regimes in wildlife management has the character of being distinctly rampant (see Tønnessen's chapter 4).
See also:

Reference to two of my publications in Larsen's chapter on anthropocentrism in food production

Two of my academic publications are referred to in Guri Larsen's book chapter on anthropocentrism in food production in the recently published Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology. Reference to Guri's article:
Larsen, Guri 2013. Matens urettferdighet: Matproduksjonens antroposentriske system [Food’s injustice: The anthropocentric system of food production]. In: Ragnhild Sollund, Morten Tønnessen and Guri Larsen (eds), Hvem er villest i landet her: Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man]. Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 185-203.
The reference is on page 186, and is to my chapter in the same book "Menneskeveldet" [The human empire] plus to my 2010 article "The global species" (New formations 69: 98-110). Excerpt (my translation):
Within an interdisciplinary field of research, human ecology, nature and culture is sought synthesised in the study of humans' collective interaction with nature. Here, a humane ecosystem is considered as a demographic answer to the need to restore a functioning relation to nature (Tønnessen 2010, see also Tønnessen's chapter).

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Minding Animals Norway: Members email distributed; newsletter to appear

In the end of January a members' email (2 pp.) that I had composed was distributed to all members of Minding Animals Norway. Contents included info about media appearances, preliminary plans/ambitions for an annual awards ceremony, info about the Norwegian Animal ethics conference 2012 (already held) and 2013 (upcoming, August 22), and about Minding Animals Norway's newly established gift account.
 
The next comparable transmission will be in the form of a newsletter, in PDF format. Such newsletters will be issued by Minding Animals Norway approximately four times a year. The first one is due really soon.

HAS chronicle posted in online debate forum Nye Meninger

The programmatic chronicle on human-animal relations that I mentioned yesterday, when it was printed in the Norwegian daily Klassekampen, has now been posted on the debate forum Nye Meninger, with the title "Veien ut av antropocen: Miljøvernere og dyrevernere, foren deres krefter!" [The way/road out of the Anthropocene: Environmentalists and animal protectionists, unite your forces!] (in Norwegian).

Friday, 12 July 2013

Hessen and Norwegian HAS anthology debated in Morgenbladet

In this week's Morgenbladet (a Norwegian weekly), Professor in theology Knut Alfsvåg responds, in a Letter to the editor, to Professor in biology Dag Hessen's 2-page essay (in Norwegian) published June 28th (see link below), which was a revised and abbreviated version of Hessen's book chapter in our anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man]. This implies that our book has now given rise to public debate.

See also:

Programmatic chronicle on human-animal relations in the daily Klassekampen

In today's Klassekampen, a Norwegian daily, there is a chronicle written by me, Guri Larsen and Ragnhild Sollund and entitled "Ut av menneskets vold" [loosely: Out of human custody/detention]. This chronicle, which is an outcome of the book we've edited, Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], is programmatic in style and content.

Ingress (my translation): 
Environmentalists and animal protectionists should unite their forces in order to change our relation to our surroundings.
Caption (my translation):
Subjected to Man: A life in a cage inflicts animals with suffering and disease. Animal protectionists and environmentalists should form an alliance to give individuals and living systems greater intrinsic value, for the benefit of animals, the environment and humans, the authors write.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Reference to "The human empire" (NO) in book chapter by Burkey

My Norwegian language book chapter "Menneskeveldet" [The human empire] is referred to in a chapter in the same book written by Tormod Vaaland Burkey:
Burkey, Tormod Vaaland 2013. En annen verdensanskuelse er mulig [A different world view is possible]. In: Ragnhild Sollund, Morten Tønnessen and Guri Larsen (eds), Hvem er villest i landet her: Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man]. Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 353-374.
The reference - or more specifically two mentions - is made on p. 362. Excerpts (my translation):
But humans have established themselves on all continents, under all possible environmental circumstances, and operate as a global species that is no longer held back by local conditions (see Tønnessen, chapter 2).
And:
In the era of the Anthropocene (see Tønnessen, chapter 2) humans are rather to be regarded as an environmental condition which other species are restrained by, than a part of that same nature.

Biosemiotics vs. Singer: Reference to "Steps to a semiotics of being" in ethics chapter by Gamlund

My article "Steps to a semiotics of being" (Biosemiotics 3 (2010): 375-392) is referred to in the following book chapter:
Gamlund, Espen 2013. Etiske perspektiver på dyr og natur [Ethical perspectives on animals and nature]. In: Ragnhild Sollund, Morten Tønnessen and Guri Larsen (eds), Hvem er villest i landet her: Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man]. Oslo: Spartacus Forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, 329-352.
The reference, found on p. 350, in footnote 14, concerns the role of sentience in animal ethics. On p. 344 Gamlund writes that (my translation) "Singer and his followers will say that the capability to feel lust and pain is necessary in order to have interests at all. Their justification is that without sentience there is nothing morally speaking to consider, since nothing can matter to an organism which cannot feel lust and pain." The footnote then reads: "But this is disputed by some biosemioticians. See for example Tønnessen 2010."

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Article on Norwegian HAS anthology in Morgenbladet: Animal revolution; "Cutlets with feelings"

In the June 14-20 issue of the Norwegian weekly Morgenbladet, there was an article in the "Books" section on the Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Råskap mot dyr og natur i antropocen, menneskets tidsalder [Who is wildest in this country here? Brutality towards animals and nature in the Anthropocene, the age of Man], for which I am one of three editors. The article, written by Nordis Tennes, is entitled "Koteletter with følelser" [Cutlets with feelings], and consists of an interview with my co-editor Ragnhild Sollund. 

Ingress in translation:
Man has no right to assert themselves over other species, according to researchers in a new book. They think an animal protection revolution is needed in order to ensure animal rights.
The caption of the image (front cover) also makes use of the term 'revolution' (though this term is not used in our book):
New book encourages revolution on behalf of animals.