Fur, Fin and Feather: Commodifying Wild Animals

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July 6, 2023 to July 7, 2023
United Kingdom

Call for Papers: Fur, Fin and Feather: Commodifying Wild Animals

Commodities of Empire International Workshop, University of York [6th and 7th July 2023]

Following on the 2022 meeting on domesticated animals, we focus in this workshop on the commodification of wild (i.e. non-domesticated and non-tamed) animals.

Almost every part of the body of wild animals has been used in some way by humans. Animal fur, feather, skin, hair, and wool have provided warmth. Animal flesh has provided sustenance. Animal shells, bones, hooves, and teeth have provided material for tools, trinkets and ornaments, and animal fat, oil and excrement have served as fuel and fertilisers. Before the advent of synthetic materials in the early twentieth century, natural substances derived from plants and animals were the only ones available to humans. They were valued highly and, in some cases, traded over long distances.  We ask how animal body parts were procured, traded, transported and processed, and assess how this changed between places and over time.

We further explore the global trade in live animals, either as menagerie inmates or exotic pets, the commodification of hunting and tourism, and the role of wild animals in laboratory experiments.

We are especially interested in how transoceanic trade, colonization and the global expansion of capitalism shaped the exploitation of wild animals, and in the ways in which new technologies, scientific advances and shifting tastes and fashions impacted on the supply and demand for animal products and services related to animals. We are also interested in the ethical issues raised by the over-harvesting of wild animal commodities, excessive leisure pursuits, and the measures taken to mitigate such over-exploitation. How has the treating of animals as global commodities impacted the survival of wild animal populations, and the wider ecosystems within which they operate? What are the animal welfare implications of commodifying wild animals? What role have concerns about animal suffering played in influencing demand for animal products and activities related to wild animals?

Potential paper topics may relate to:

  • The hunting or trapping of wild animals for their fur, feathers, hair, ivory, skin or other valued products.

  • The processing of, and trade in, wild animal commodities, and the ways in which this has been shaped by social networks, shifting patterns of demand and new transport technologies such as the steamship, the railway or the airplane.

  • The trade in live animals.

  • The exhibition of live animals in zoos, menageries, and circuses.

  • The environmental impact of the commodification of wild animals and the measures taken to conserve valued species – including, for instance, hunting licenses, import and export bans on the body parts of threatened species, the creation of wildlife sanctuaries, experiments in captive breeding and efforts to reduce consumer demand for animal products.

  • The viewing and hunting of wild animals as leisure pursuits.

  • The animal welfare concerns raised by the commodification of wild animals.

  • The social impact of commodifying wild animals, and the ways in which cultural conditions have shaped their use (e.g. guinea pigs were farmed for food and sacrifice in Peru, but are used as pets and laboratory animals in Europe and North America).

  • The role of taste, fashion, and ethical considerations in shaping consumer demand for animal products and activities related to wild animals.

We are interested in cases from all geographical regions, and in approaches from various disciplines. In addition to historians, we welcome papers from zoologists, environmentalists, anthropologists, sociologists and other scholars working on the history of wild animals and wild animal commodities.

This two-day workshop will be held at the University of York on 6 and 7 July 2023 and is part of the Commodities of Empire British Academy Research Project. Following the long-standing practice of Commodities of Empire workshops, papers will be grouped in thematic panels, pre-circulated to all workshop participants, and panel discussions will be opened by a chair or discussant. Paper-givers will then have the possibility to reply succinctly, and this will be followed by open discussion. Papers presented at the workshop may be considered for publication in the Commodities of Empire Working Papers series. We strongly encourage graduate students and other early career scholars to propose papers.

The workshop is planned as an in-person event, though with scope for participants to be involved virtually where necessary

Some funding is available to cover travel and accommodation expenses for early career scholars, and particularly for scholars coming from the Global South.

Please e-mail expressions of interest, with a title and an abstract of no more than 300 words, by 31 January 2023 to Professor Helen Cowie, at helen.cowie@york.ac.uk. We will notify authors about the acceptance of their papers by the end of March. They will then be asked to submit a draft paper of approx. 5,000-6,000 words (not counting footnotes and bibliography) 3 weeks prior to the event.

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Categories: CFP, Conference Notes
Keywords: CFP (workshop)