Podcast | Human and social sciences

[PODCAST] Confluence of Research Worlds: Dissecting the strange familiarity and uncanny relationships between humans and simians in the Enlightenment era with Alan Ross

Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max,
Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max, "Singe devant un squelette", "Les Erudits", "Education anthropologique"

The Collegium - Lyon Institute for Advanced Studies is launching Confluence of Research Worlds, a podcast series to explore the ongoing research of the 2023-24 fellows.


Listen to the talk (in French) with Alan Ross

Music: The Return composed by Alexander Nakarada (CC BY 4.0)
A podcast series created and produced by
Bérénice Gagne


The modern history researcher, Alan Ross, is holding a tenure-track professorship for the history of educational ideas and practices at the University of Vienna in Austria. He is a fellow at the Collegium - Lyon Institute for Advanced Studies for the year 2023-24. He is conducting research on the contact between humans and simians in the Enlightenment era.

Ross demonstrates how the arrival of the first monkeys in Europe sparked an ontological insecurity in European societies, which have since sought – unsuccessfully – to establish a definitive separation between humans and animals. The modern history of simian-human relations thus becomes a story of this sense of insecurity as humans, as well as our individual position in human hierarchies.

We live in a time when feelings of fear about the future and uncertainty are very pronounced. Historically, it is often in such moments that ideas of reconnecting with nature emerge. There is the notion of a natural state to which we could return and the idea of wisdom from nature that could help us confront problems. The concept of nature is always very flexible: it embodies whatever we want it to be, it can mean anything.

In conducting this research, Alan Ross collaborates with the Laboratoire de recherche historique Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA) research unit.