CowDom - Between Domestication and Ferality
Cattle-Human Relations in the Making of Post-colonial South-America


The project CowDom aims at understanding how different configurations of human-cattle relations reflect social, economic and political dynamics in four countries in post-colonial South America. It will answer this question by analyzing the values, practices and colonial legacies related to human-cattle relationships in four South American countries - Brasil, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia - by focusing on the opposite poles of the domestication process: genetically improved races and feral or semi-feral creole cattle. Through long-term ethnographic fieldwork, interdisciplinary teams of zoologists and anthropologists will delve into cattle fairs and historical feral cattle territories.

The general objective is to study the impact of cattle domestication practices and ideology on post-colonial South American society, providing an analytical framework for future studies on this topic on a regional scale, and by including feral dynamics linked to the arrival of cattle to the American continent as a crucial element of a wider colonization process. 

Through an ethnographic analysis of specific case-studies, the project will achieve this objective by focusing on the following questions: 

  • What specific idioms and practices concerning the domestication of cattle have emerged in post-colonial South America, at the crossroad between local ecologies, cattle agency, historical lineages, industrial projects and market dynamics; 
  • How do changes in cattle farming systems reflect/effect changes in society; 
  • What kinds of socio-ecological entanglements did the presence of feral and semi-feral cattle produce, and what are the socio-ecological conditions for their survival in present times; 
  • How did the presence of feral and semi-feral cattle influenced people’s values and imagination; 
  • What values are implicitly or explicitly influencing cattle breeding practices, and from which historical/contingent lineages they originate.

Open positions

  • Deadline for submission of applications: 30th April 2024, h. 12.00 noon (Italian time)
  • Beginning of the fellowship: between 01/05/2024 and 01/09/2024

A total of 4 postdoctoral fellowships of 3 years each (an initial 1-year contract, which can be renewed up to 3 years) are organised as follows:

In each of the countries, the anthropologist and the zoologist will work in close collaboration with each other, carrying out most of the fieldwork together. More broadly, they will be part of a team of six people who will work in close coordination with each other, and will meet regularly every six months in South America or Venice. The researchers are also required to spend an initial period of time (about 1 month) in Venice, before the beginning of the fieldwork.

For any doubt or for specific requirements please e-mail the PI at


Valentina Bonifacio

Principal Investigator

Advisory board

  • Maria José Hötzel (Federal University of Santa Catarina | UFSC)
  • Marisol de La Cadena (University of California, Davis)
  • Mario Blaser (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
  • Radhika Subramaniam (Parsons School of Design, NY)