Antoinette Burton and Renisa Mawani

Jun 7, 2021

Animalia

An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times

Duke University Press 2020

From yaks and vultures to whales and platypuses, animals have played central roles in the history of British imperial control. The contributors to Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times (Duke UP, 2020) analyze twenty-six animals—domestic, feral, predatory, and mythical—whose relationship to imperial authorities and settler colonists reveals how the presumed racial supremacy of Europeans underwrote the history of Western imperialism. Victorian imperial authorities, adventurers, and colonists used animals as companions, military transportation, agricultural laborers, food sources, and status symbols. They also overhunted and destroyed ecosystems, laying the groundwork for what has come to be known as climate change.

At the same time, animals such as lions, tigers, and mosquitoes interfered in the empire's racial, gendered, and political aspirations by challenging the imperial project’s sense of inevitability. Unconventional and innovative in form and approach, Animalia invites new ways to consider the consequences of imperial power by demonstrating how the politics of empire—in its racial, gendered, and sexualized forms—played out in multispecies relations across jurisdictions under British imperial control.

Akash is a historical researcher focusing on the interconnected lives of humans and animals. He studied at McGill University (B.A. History) and Queen’s University (M.A. History), where he researched human-animal relations and transatlantic exchanges in eighteenth-century British culture through his thesis, Animal Ascension: Elevation and Debasement Through Human-Animal Associations in English Satire, 1700-1820 (https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/handle/1974/27991). Contact: 17amo2@queensu.ca

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Akash Ondaatje

Akash Ondaatje is a Research Associate at Know History. He studied at McGill University (B.A. History) and Queen’s University (M.A. History), where he researched human-animal relations and transatlantic exchanges in eighteenth-century British culture. Contact: 17amo2@queensu.ca

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