Deep Conversations: Animal Histories

Animal Histories: Decentring the Human in Understanding the Past 


Animals have a central role in human cultures, but it is only relatively recently that animal histories have become a major scholarly focus. What insights into the past and present can we gain from histories of animals and of interspecies relationships? How do more than human histories transform our understandings of the human past? What are the methodological challenges of trying to recover the agency and experiences of animals in the past? And what does it mean to write history in a non-anthropocentric way? 


In this Deep Conversation, Ruby Ekkel (ANU) will chair a discussion between Sophie Chao (University of Sydney), Simon Farley (University of Melbourne) and Laura Rademaker (ANU) on the 'animal turn' in scholarship, their individual experiences of grappling with the place of animals in their research and writing, and the methodological challenges of engaging with animals as agents and actors in an anthropocentric discipline like History. 


This seminar will be held in hybrid format. It will take place in-person in Meeting Room 2.56 in the ANU's RSSS Building and online via Zoom.


The seminar is part of Deep Conversations: History, Environment, Science. This seminar series is a partnership of the Australian National University's Research Centre for Deep History and Centre for Environmental History. It aims to bring together scholars from diverse disciplines to discuss questions of history, science and the environment, and how they shed light on the global challenges we face today.


About the Speakers: 

Sophie Chao is DECRA Fellow and Lecturer in the Discipline of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Her research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Sophie is author of In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (Duke University Press, 2022) and co-editor of The Promise of Multispecies Justice (Duke, 2022) with Karin Bolender and Eben Kirksey. Her DECRA project examines the conflicting perceptions, knowledges, and practices surrounding kangaroo-human relations in Australia. 


Ruby Ekkel is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, where she is the recipient of the RSSS Director’s Award for Higher Degree Research. Previously she completed a Masters degree in History at the University of St Andrews, studying the intersections of animal protection and women’s movements in Victorian Britain. Ruby specializes in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century environmental history and women's history, with award-winning published work on the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She also co-edits a podcast, The Bush Bash, about Australian environmental history.


Simon Farley is a writer and a PhD candidate in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Ze is researching changing settler-Australian attitudes towards non-native wildlife from the 1820s to the present. You can follow zir on Twitter @sighmonger.


Laura Rademaker is an ARC DECRA research fellow at the Australian National University. She is the author of Found in Translation: Many Meanings on a North Australian Mission (University of Hawai’i Press, 2018) on language and cross-cultural exchange at Christian missions to Aboriginal people, which was awarded the 2020 Hancock Prize. Her work explores the possibilities of ‘cross-culturalising’ history, interdisciplinary histories as well as oral history and memory.




Photo by Fidel Fernando via Unsplash 


Date & time

Tue 25 Oct 2022, 12–1.30pm


Meeting Room 2.56, Level 2, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Crescent, Canberra


Sophie Chao
Ruby Ekkel
Laura Rademaker
Simon Farley


Centre for Environmental History


Rohan Howitt


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