Spring Keynote 25 March: Prof. John Vucetich (MIT) – Restoring the Balance: Lessons from Wolves on a Wilderness Island

Professor John A. Vucetich, Michigan Technological University

Restoring the Balance: Lessons from Wolves on a Wilderness Island

5pm, 25 March 2019, Roger Stevens LT 15 (11.15)

Professor Vucetich will review the ecological science to emerge from the wolves and moose of Isle Royale National Park. The project – entering its sixth decade – is the longest continuous study of any predator-prey study in the world. Vucetich will also highlight some implications of the research for the broader relationship between humans and nature.

Biography: John A. Vucetich is a professor at Michigan Technological University, where he teaches population biology and environmental ethics. He leads the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project and has authored more than 100 scholarly publications on topics, including wolf-prey ecology, extinction risk, population genetics, and environmental philosophy. john green hat JE1H7787According to the ISI Web of Science, he is the third most productive and cited scholar in the world with respect to the ecology of wolves for the period 1997-present (the period of time covering his professional career). His work in environmental philosophy includes topics such as the endangered species law, wilderness, conservation triage, advocacy by scientists, hunting and more. His ability to relate science and ethics has captured the attention of scholars, the general public, and governments around the world.

Please register your attendance via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/prof-john-vucetich-michigan-tech-restoring-the-balance-lessons-from-wolves-on-a-wilderness-island-tickets-58275780428


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LASN Seminar 13 Feb: Dr Sarah Bezan – Regenesis Aesthetics: Visualizing the Woolly Mammoth in De-Extinction Science

Dr Sarah Bezan – School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, The University of Sheffield

Regenesis Aesthetics: Visualizing the Woolly Mammoth in De-Extinction Science

Wednesday 13 February, 1-2pm

Hillary Place SR G.18

Abstract: Examining a range of artistic media that depicts the de-extinction of the woolly mammoth, this talk will explore the resurrective ethos that undergirds what I have termed “regensis aesthetics.” In calling upon the title of George Church’s co-authored book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature, regenesis aesthetics explores the jointly scientific and artistic remaking of the beginning and end of species in the paleontological imagination. Through an iconographical analysis of hyper-realistic digital images, naturalistic paintings, and speculative exhibitions by artists Chris Buzelli, Raúl Martin, Lisel Ashlock, and the artist collective at The Centre for Genomic Gastronomy, this talk will illuminate the creativity and variability of de-extinction science itself, which inspires the reanimation of the woolly mammoth in pictures and (ostensibly in the near future) in the flesh.

Bio: Sarah Bezan is a Newton International Fellow at The University of Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre. She is the co-editor of Seeing Animals After Derrida (Lexington Books Ecocritical Theory & Practice Series, 2018) and a forthcoming special issue of Configurations: Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology on “Taxidermic Forms and Fictions” (March 2019). Her current research project, Regenesis Aesthetics: The Art and Literature of De-Extinction Science, focuses on visual cultures of extinction and species revivalism in contemporary literature and art.

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LASN Seminar 23 January: Caitlin Stobie – ‘Abortion and Animals’

Caitlin Stobie – School of English, University of Leeds

Abortion and Animals

1-2pm, Wednesday 23 January

Alumni Room, School of English, 10 Cavendish Road

Abstract: There are two billboards near Niagara Falls Bus Station in Canada. The first displays a familiar anti-abortion campaign: with a silhouette of a pregnant woman cradling her belly, it asks, “Why can’t we love them both?”. Separately, yet not three feet away, there is a billboard with a photoshopped ark of animals and the simple question, “Would you let them be stranded?’”. Engaging with queer theorist Astrida Neimanis’s concept of ‘posthuman gestationality’, this paper analyses how narratological representations of human reproductive choices and domesticated nonhuman bodies are consanguineously linked. Beginning with a discursive analysis of the billboards, I argue that anti-abortion propaganda and animal welfare campaigns reproduce imagery of non/human gestationality for a counter-intuitively common purpose: the naturalisation of certain belief systems. In Sherry F. Colb and Michael C. Dorf’s 2016 monograph Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights, the vegan authors argue that sentience should be considered more important than legal or moral personhood when regarding interspecies ethics at the beginning and end of life. Yet sentience is infamously difficult to quantify, as illustrated by the fact that few studies of moral cases for abortion have analysed instances of embryonic diapause and miscarriage in mammals. This paper challenges the invisibility of nonhuman animals in mainstream abortion activism by providing an overview of the material history of terminated gestations in nature. It further explores what this history implies for the future of the so-called abortion debate. Finally, analysing literary narratives that intermesh humans’ and nonhumans’ terminations of pregnancy, the paper concludes that artistic representations of animals can incite us to imagine abortion differently – by showing that this supposedly ‘human matter’ is natural.

Bio: Caitlin Stobie is a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, where she is co-founder of the Leeds Animal Studies Network. She has published articles and book chapters on vegan studies in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment and Through a Vegan Studies Lens: Textual Ethics and Lived Activism (University of Nevada Press, 2019). She is currently co-organising a conference on the intersections between animal studies and modernism, titled Beastly Modernisms, which will be hosted at the University of Glasgow in September 2019.


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Autumn Keynote 22 Nov: Dolly Jørgensen – Searching for the Last and the Emotions of Extinction

Professor Dolly Jørgensen – University of Stavanger, Norway

Searching for the Last and the Emotions of Extinction

22 November, 4.30-6pm, Clothworkers North Building LT (G.12)

We have organised a drinks reception in The Faversham afterwards so that we can continue the discussion in a more informal setting.

Abstract: To recognise that an animal is the last of its kind means that it is still alive, but when it dies, there will be no more. When standing at the precipice of extinction, contradictory emotions can come to the fore: hope and despair. There can be hope that more animals will be found; despair that none will be. In this lecture, I will use the historical cases of the local extinction of the beaver in Sweden and the global extinction of the thylacine in Tasmania to discuss how these two emotions intersected and spurred people on their searches for the last. I advocate integrating the history of emotions into our environmental history narratives in order to understand motivations for animal conservation.

Speaker bio: Dolly Jørgensen is Professor of History at University of Stavanger, Norway specializing in histories of environment and technology. Her scholarship is unconstrained by typical periodization boundaries: she is just as comfortable writing about 11th century forest management or 15th century urban sanitation as she is writing about 20th century offshore oil operations or contemporary efforts to resurrect extinct animal species. Her current research agenda focuses on cultural histories of animal extinction and recovery. Her book on that topic, Longing and Belonging: Recovering Lost Species in the Modern Age, will be coming out with MIT Press in 2019. She has previously co-edited two volumes at the envirotech intersection—New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies (2013) and Northscapes: History, Technology & the Making of Northern Environments (2013)—and one volume in premodern studies, Visions of North in Premodern Europe (2018).

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LASN Seminar 7 November: Rosamund Portus on Bees and Extinction

Rosamund Portus, PhD student in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York, will be joining us on 7 November for our first seminar of the 2018/19.

Stories of Extinction: The Role of Creativity in Responding to and Resisting the Decline of Bees.

Her presentation will focus on her research so far, thinking through the role of creativity in ecological issues (specifically the loss of bees). She will be talking about the ‘extinction studies’ genre, reasons for the loss of bees, environmental communication, and the research she has been conducting with creative practitioners.

Rosamund Portus is a second year PhD student at the University of York. Rosamund works in the environmental humanities, specialising in extinction studies. Her PhD research asks how the potential extinction of bees has prompted creative practice. More specifically, she studies how people are using creative practices to narrate, discuss, experience, challenge and potentially resist the decline of bees. Rosamund is part of the WRoCAH Extinction Network, which entails working alongside two other postgraduate researchers at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield.

1-2pm, SR 11 Emmanuel Centre, 1a Cavendish Road

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Animal Remains Conference CfP

Biennial Conference of 

The University of Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre (ShARC)

April 29-30th, 2019

Humanities Research Institute, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom


Keynote Speakers: 

Lucinda Cole, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Thom van Dooren, The University of Sydney, Australia

Artist in Residence:

Steve Baker, The University of Central Lancashire, UK


Animal remains are everywhere. From the cryogenically-preserved DNA of the extinct Po’ouli bird held in storage at the Frozen Zoo to the ivory tusks of African elephants that flood the market of the illegal wildlife trade, animal bodies have been fashioned into commodities, fetishized visual objects, colonial artifacts, meat, carrion, taxidermic trophies, and biotechnological innovations. Decomposed organic compounds that were once ancient animal and vegetable remains are also converted into fuel and an array of petro-products, while dinosaurs and other prehistoric species make frequent appearances in recent science fiction films like Jurassic World.

The fossil in particular has emerged as contested theoretical terrain, as Elizabeth Povinelli suggests in her critique of settler late liberalism (Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism). The fossil is regarded as the “endpoint” of the biological image in W.J.T. Mitchell’s Image Science, and as the threshold that marks the crossover of living things into the “world of rocks” (Manuel DeLanda). Meanwhile, for speculative realists like Timothy Morton, it is a “hyperobject” characterized by its “sensuous connectivity” and withdrawal from humans (Hyperobjects). As Elizabeth Kolbert points out in The Sixth Extinction, the fossil has only relatively recently afforded animals a history, because prior to the seventeenth century, the “category of extinction didn’t exist.” In studies of the Anthropocene, the fossil gestures to the geological as well as the “intersecting biological and chemical” transformations that “intermesh human and natural histories,” according to Stacy Alaimo (“Your Shell on Acid”). Indeed, the fossil — and animal remains more broadly conceived — hover at the periphery of a number of critical inquiries across the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, but have yet to receive sustained and thoughtful engagement.

Building on these emerging developments, this international and cross-disciplinary conference will examine the material histories and futures of animal remains. In which ways, and to what effect, are animal remains figured in narratological frameworks (David HermanSusan McHugh)? Can animal remains incite us to imagine extinction (Ursula HeiseThom Van Dooren), and if so, how? What are the material, affective, philosophical, ecological, and biological afterlives of dead animals (Rachel PoliquinSamuel J.M.M. Alberti)? With the sixth mass extinction underway, how do we apprehend the sheer scale and scope of animal remains, given the hyper-visibility of some, and the invisibility of others? What are the political and ethical stakes involved in our treatment of animal remains? This conference invites a broad exploration of these kinds of questions. Possible topics or sub-fields include petrocultures, zooarchaeology, dinosaur iconology, zoological gardens, museological/memory studies, cryptozoology, wildlife conservation, de-extinction movements, bio-/cryopolitics, neo-vitalist philosophy, ecologies of putrefaction (see Lucinda Cole), spatial geographies of rot (see Jamie Lorimer), new materialisms (inclusive of what Kim Tallbear calls “an indigenous metaphysic”), decolonizing animals, animal remains and art, extinction studies, and beyond.

Abstracts of 350 words, along with a 50-word bio (in email body or in doc.x), can be sent to Sarah Bezan (s.bezan@sheffield.ac.uk) and Robert McKay (r.mckay@sheffield.ac.uk) by November 23rd, 2018. Early career scholars and post-graduate researchers are expressly encouraged to submit abstracts, and will be eligible to apply for ShARC Travel Awards to defray the costs of travel. Confirmed participants will be notified by late December 2018. An edited volume on ‘Animal Remains’ will be one of the anticipated outcomes of this meeting, and will be considered for publication in the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature series.

This conference is generously supported by BIOSEC and the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities

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