Lucinda Cole, ‘Plagues, Poisons, Dead Rats: In Search of A Medical Posthumanities’

This is a talk by Lucinda Cole (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), delivered as part of ShARC’s Animal Remains conference (2019).

Anglo-European history is full of failed attempts to eradicate increasingly global rat populations—often through poisons—in the name of human health. Even before being identified as vectors for bubonic plague in the late nineteenth century, rats were regarded as “vermin” and marked for death. Focusing on shipboard rats in literature and natural philosophy, Lucinda Cole traces some of this history, and considers the possibility of a multispecies, ecological approach to our real and imagined “vermin problem.”

Thom van Dooren, ‘Moving Birds in Hawai’i: Assisted colonisation in a colonised land’

This is a talk by Thom van Dooren (University of Sydney), delivered as part of ShARC’s Animal Remains conference (2019).

In September 2011, a delicate cargo of 24 Nihoa Millerbirds was carefully loaded by conservationists onto a ship for a three-day voyage to Laysan Island in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The goal of this translocation was to establish a second population of this endangered species, an “insurance population” in the face of the mounting pressures of climate change and potential new biotic arrivals. But the millerbird, or ulūlu in Hawaiian, is just one of many avian species to become the subject of this kind of “assisted colonisation.” In Hawai’i, and around the world, recent years have seen a broad range of efforts to safeguard species by finding them homes in new places. Thinking through the ulūlu project, this lecture explores the challenges and possibilities of assisted colonisation in a colonised land. What does it mean to move birds in the context of the long, and ongoing, history of dispossession of the Kānaka Maoli, the Native Hawaiian people? How are distinct but entangled process of colonisation, of unworlding, at work in the lives of both people and birds? Ultimately, this lecture explores how these diverse colonisations might be understood and told responsibly in an era of escalating loss and extinction.

Sarah Bezan interviews Lucinda Cole

Lucinda Cole is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois and author of Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literature, and the Sciences of Life, 1600–1740 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016).

Sarah asks Lucinda about her keynote talk at ShARC’s Animal Remains conference. They consider how definitions and conceptions of vermin have changed over time, the ethics of island eco-tourism, how animal studies might look to address the key issues of our time, what animal studies might mean to its various practitioners, Extinction Rebellion, the relationship between scholarship and activism, and that episode of Black Mirror in which soldiers are implanted with chips so that they see fellow humans as vermin.

Peter Sands interviews Thom van Dooren

Thom van Dooren is Associate Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2017-2021) in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, and founding co-editor of the journal Environmental Humanities (Duke University Press).

Peter asks Thom about his new book: The Wake of Crows (CUP, forthcoming 2019). They discuss the possibility of a non-abstract, animal-inclusive ethics, how animal studies might look to address the key issues of our time, such as habitat loss and extinction, field philosophy, violent care, story-telling and “snail semiotics”.

Christie Oliver-Hobley interviews Steve Baker

Steve Baker is a Norwich-based artist and writer. He is Professor of Research for Art and Media at the University of Derby, and Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Central Lancashire.

Christie asks Steve about his recent exhibition, Fieldwork (curated by Maria Lux, Sheffield, April 2019). They discuss animal studies, how Steve got into the field, issues surrounding representation of nonhuman others, plus how artistic work might inform theoretical practice, and vice versa. If you listen to the end you’ll even get to find out Steve’s favourite animal(s)!

You can view images from Steve Baker’s Fieldwork project at: steve-baker.com/artwork