November 30 – December 2, 2021

Flourishing Animals


We are in a period of crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented weather events and catastrophe shape our present context. These crises are interconnected with the ongoing devastation of anthropogenic climate change and the continuing violence of settler colonial logics. This period has highlighted the deep contradictions in our relations with domesticated animals and animals in “the wild”, and, indeed, the “wild” itself; indeed, many of the questions which have energised animal studies for decades have now been pushed into the spotlight. This includes the place of animals within human food supplies and their relation to zoonotic disease, the continuing reality of mass extinctions and their interconnection with human activity, and the material impacts of disasters – fires, drought and floods – on non-human life. Here, a prevailing anthropocentrism is today threatening to annihilate everything: something Danielle Celermajer describes as “omnicide” (Celermajer 2020)

However, this period has also highlighted the resilience of life, in its many forms. For animal studies, this creates an opportunity to flag the continuing importance of our work in seeking to understand thriving non-human worlds, and interpret how these worlds interconnect with human societies. Animal studies scholars can thus reinterpret our past, present and future by highlighting alternative forms of understanding, including the knowledge systems and justice claims of First Nations peoples, which might offer different views of animals and nature. These discussions highlight how we can co-exist with animals and environments in ways that recognise and promote flourishing for all life. A focus on flourishing connects with prominent work in animal ethics, such as the capabilities approach of Martha Nussbaum (2006). But it also opens to emerging scholarship such as the work of Rosemary-Claire Collard, Jessica Dempsey and Juanita Sundberg which emphasises interconnected economies of human and more than human “abundance” (Collard et al 2014) or Kim TallBear’s call for a “spatial narrative of caretaking relations” in opposition to the logic of settler colonialism (TallBear 2019).