Coastal Animals: Institute of Historical Research Seminar, 24 June 2021

Hannah  Boast's picture

Dear all,

List subscribers might be interested in the following event: 

Coastal Animals, a panel discussion with Miranda Lowe (Natural History Museum), Megnaa Mehtta (University of Sheffield), John Miller (University of Sheffield), Miles Powell (Nanyang Technological University), chaired by Hannah Boast (University College Dublin)

24 June, 2-3.30pm UK time

Hosted by the Coastal Connections seminar at the Institute of Historical Research

Register here:

Coasts are contact zones between humans and animals. Animals draw humans to coasts, as sources of food, energy and fur, figures in literature and mythology, and tourist attractions. These interactions can bring human and animal interests into conflict, as when animal populations are diminished by overfishing, conservation projects threaten subsistence practices, or unwanted animals disrupt the use of beaches as sites of leisure. Coastal species are also at the forefront of climate change: rising sea levels threaten to inundate habitats, coral reefs are vulnerable to bleaching, and hotter temperatures place marine animals at heightened risk of extinction. 

In this roundtable, four scholars from different disciplines present a snapshot of their research and discuss the historical and contemporary relationships between coastal animals and humans. By bringing together perspectives from anthropology, environmental history, literature, and museum science, this seminar will explore the connections between ecology, aesthetics and justice at the coastline.

Each participant will present for 8-10 minutes, and then the remainder of the 90-minute session will be a Q&A including audience participation.


Miranda Lowe is a Principal Curator and museum scientist at the Natural History Museum, London. With over two decades worth of collections management and curatorial skills she cares for a plethora of historically important specimens from both the Challenger and discovery oceanic expeditions. Her scientific expertise is in peracarid crustacea and coral taxonomy. She presents lectures on curatorial research and popular science, and has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Museum of Curiosity’ (2020) and ‘Natural Histories’ (2015), as well as the BBC Four documentary ‘Britain’s Whale Hunters: The Untold Story’ (2014). She has published on topics including decolonial approaches to natural history collections, and the Natural History Museum’s collection of glass sea creatures made by Leopold and Rudolf Blascha. She is a co-founder of Museum Detox.

Megnaa Mehtta is an environmental anthropologist with an interest in values, emotions and the mythologies of people, places and animals, as they intersect with debates in global conservation and political ecology. She received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics in January 2020. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sheffield, she is currently working on her book manuscript tentatively titled Conserving Life: Political Imaginaries from a Submerging Forest.

John Miller is Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Sheffield, co-director of ShARC (Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre) and President of ASLE-UKI (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, UK & Ireland). His research focuses on the literary representation of animals and ecologies from the eighteenth century to the present. His books include Empire and the Animal Body: Violence, Identity and Ecology in Victorian Adventure Fiction (2012), Walrus (2014, with Louise Miller), Literature and Meat Since 1900 (edited with Seán McCorry, 2019) and The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and Animals (edited with Susan McHugh and Robert McKay, 2020).

Miles Powell is an Associate Professor of history at NTU, Singapore, where he studies marine and global environmental history, and heads the university’s Environmental Humanities research cluster. His first book, Vanishing America: Species Extinction, Racial Peril, and The Origins of Conservation (Harvard University Press, 2016), uses discourses of extinction to explore connections between racial attitudes and environmental thought in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century America. His current research projects include a global environmental history of human interactions with sharks (under contract with Harvard University Press), and a grant-funded study of Singapore’s marine environmental history. His research has appeared in Environment and History, the International Review of Environmental History, the Pacific Historical Review, the Western Historical Quarterly, and edited anthologies. He currently serves on the editorial board of Environment and History.

Hannah Boast is Ad Astra Fellow/Assistant Professor in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. She researches water in contemporary literature, culture and politics, and has wider interests in critical animal studies, queer ecology and popular culture. Her first monograph, Hydrofictions: Water, Power and Politics in Israeli and Palestinian Literature, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2020. Her current book project is titled Water Crisis and World Literature. Her research has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Best wishes,