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Life and Death in the Public Eye: Animal Bodies, Environmental Culture, and Regional Identity

Fri, April 1, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Cascade 1A

Session Submission Type: Panel


In his book Here Lies Hugh Glass (2012), historian Jon Coleman reveals how the encounter between people and animals not only damaged, destroyed, and remade bodies (human and nonhuman) but also helped shape a white, male U.S. national identity. This panel will build on this line of inquiry by examining the role of human-animal relations in the production of regional identity and environmental values in modern North America. The three presentations will explore how public spectacles of expropriation of and perceived cruelty toward animal bodies intersected with shifting values and identities in three distinct regional contexts. Susan Nance’s “Steamboat Sleeps at the Old City Dump” will examine how people in the West used the disposition of dead horses to talk about human honor and personal independence. Jason Colby’s “A Terrible and Sickening Spectacle” will analyze the impact of the 1970 killer whale roundup in Penn Cove, Washington, on the transborder identity and environmental values of the Salish Sea. Ian Jesse’s “Let the Poor Beasts Alone” will explore the public debate about the reintroduction and treatment of caribou in Maine in the 1980s. Chaired by, and with comment from, environmental historian Dolly Jørgensen (Umeå University), this panel will draw together innovative scholarship on the intersection of animal, environmental, and cultural history, while directly addressing the conference’s themes of how various publics negotiate over environmental politics.

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Individual Presentations