Global Animal: An Animal Studies Conference

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The Global Animal conference was held on July 7 and 8th, 2011 at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. The conference focussed on the implications of cultural, political and economic globalized environments and narratives for non-human animals, in specific relation to: Oceanic Animal; Diasporic Animal; Caged and Captive Animal; Animal Performer; Writing Animal; and Representing Animal.


Exhibition opening - Wednesday July 6th, the evening before the conference, saw the opening of an exhibition on the tiger in India, 'The Vanishing', by artist Michele Elliot.

Conference paper selection Committee - Dr Melissa Boyde, Dr Denise Russell, Dr Alison Moore and Professor Amanda Lawson – University of Wollongong; Dr Natalie Edwards – Massey University, New Zealand; Dr Rod Bennison – Macquarie University. Papers submitted in full for this conference were peer reviewed. Selected papers have been published in the first edition of the Animal Studies Journal available at the University of Wollongong's Research Online: ro.uow.edu.au/asj/. For further information contact:

Dr Melissa Boyde
Research Fellow
School of English Literatures and Philosophy
Faculty of Arts
University of Wollongong
NSW 2522
tel: 02 42213746
email: boyde@uow.edu.au

Following the Global Animal conference was the 4th Australian Animal Studies Group Conference to be held at Southbank, Brisbane 10 - 13 July 2011. The theme of the AASG and Environmental Futures Centre - Griffith University conference is: 'Animals, People - a Shared Environment'. For those who wish to attend both conferences Global Animal will offer a registration concession. For more information on the Brisbane conference go to: www.aasg2011.com.au.

Conference report

Global Animal, an international Animal Studies conference, ran over two days in July and attracted more than 60 delegates from areas as diverse as literary studies, circus history and fieldwork with Australian indigenous species, all connected by their interest in the rapidly-growing, multidisciplinary field of Animal Studies.

The conference, convened by Dr Melissa Boyde, was a collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Creative Arts and its themes included caged and captive animal, performing and representing animals and diasporic and oceanic animal. Reflecting the national recognition of creative works as research, the program incorporated a significant creative component. Michele Elliot’s haunting exhibition, the vanishing, developed and previously shown in Kolkata and Singapore with support from the Australia Council for the Arts was shown in the FCA Gallery. The installation, which explores the colonial legacy of hunting, comprised three life-size tiger sculptures, six thousand glass ‘bullets’ and three textile works with archival text embroidered on floating white cotton. The tigers were made in collaboration with a Bengali master craftsman and idol-maker, then cast in fiberglass and shrouded in calico wraps and hand-stitched red velvet.

Nikki Heywood, acclaimed Sydney-based performance artist and director, created the performance Museum of the sublime: relic #5 especially for Global Animal. This abstract performance work, which explored human-animal relations, including the issue of the live export trade, was part of a series which forms the creative research for her doctoral studies in the Faculty of Creative Arts.

A highlight of the conference was Professor Wendy Woodward’s keynote address, ‘This animal which is not one: diasporic giraffes in the African puppet play Tall Horse and J M Ledgard’s novel, Giraffe’. Woodward, a leading South African literary scholar from the University of the Western Cape, was a Visiting Fellow during July in the Faculty of Arts, with support from the LIC Research Group. Other speakers included Professor Peta Tait of La Trobe University, a leading expert on circus history, whose book Wild and Dangerous Performances:

Animals, Emotions, Circus will be published this year, who discussed ‘Feeling Live Leopard Collars’; UOW senior honorary fellow, Dr Denise Russell, known for her work on legal and ethical issues in marine ecology; and Dr Dan Lunney from the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. Ace Bourke, of Christian the lion Youtube fame, was part of a discussion panel which included Professor John Simons, Executive Dean of Arts from Macquarie University, an expert on the colonial trade in animals. The success of the Global Animal conference reveals the dynamic, growing interest that academics, artists and the community in general has in reconsidering and thinking through relations between humans and animals. Among a number of emails received by delegates after the conference this one perhaps best sums up the event:

I just wanted to let you know how rewarding it was for me to be a part of the Global Animal Conference. I found the papers diverse and intriguing and the discussions very stimulating. From medieval swan ownership to ethical farming to Coetzee's Disgrace and dying dogs to Kira O'Reilly's pig performance to Milton's Paradise Lost to feral animal problems.... to Christian the lion and a debate about the manipulative quality of Whitney Houston's (!!) song overdub on the Youtube clip. What a great bunch of people and minds. Nikki Heywood Immediately after Global Animal the Australian Animal Studies Group (AASG) held its biennial conference at Griffith University in Brisbane. AASG has recently become incorporated, and Melissa Boyde was elected its inaugural President.

The next major AASG conference will be held at the University of Sydney in 2013 convened by Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsey and the Human Animal Research Network: http://sydney.edu.au/arts/research/harn In 2012 there will be a colloquium at the University of Melbourne convened by former AASG founding member Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan and the Knowing Animals Past and Present research group: http://www.ssps.unimelb.edu.au/research/projects/kap

Melissa Boyde, November 2011