Buller's albatross

CFP: Animals Histories: Perspectives from Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific

Friday 7 July 2023, Monash University, Caulfield Campus

Animal history is a booming field of historical scholarship. As Harriet Ritvo notes, over the last four decades historians have steadily moved from relegating animals “to subordinate or peripheral roles” to centring the roles, experiences, and perspectives of non-human animals. Yet while historians interested in retrieving the experiences and theorising the roles of animals share many concerns, this scholarship is characterised by its diversity. As Ritvo suggests, there are animal histories to be found in every “geographical, chronological, and methodological” subfield of history. To this can be added an enormous diversity of approaches to historical animals, ranging from a focus on human-animal relations or cultural representations to wirk on animal mobilities, adaptations, and agency. The variety of approaches is matched by increasing attention to a variety of animals, with the traditional focus on charismatic mammals expanding to a broader range of terrestrial, marine, avian, and microbial species.

This diversity in animal histories globally is equally evident in the animal histories being produced in the regional context of Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Pacific. Covering continental, island and oceanic environments, this region includes both very deep and very recent histories of human settlement, offering the potential for unique conversations on animal-human interaction across different places and periods.

This workshop therefore aims to provide a space for discussion around the variety of approaches to animal histories practised by historians of this region, broadly conceived. Do historians working on animals across disparate periods and places within this region share common questions, agendas, challenges, or methodologies? Are these approaches part of a shared historical project? How do some of the distinctive features of this region – their deep histories, oceanic nature, distinct biota, and experiences of settler and extractive colonialism – inform the writing of animal histories? And what do perspectives from this region have to offer national historiographies on the one hand and animal history scholarship globally on the other?

We invite abstract submissions for papers that explore or engage with animal histories in any time or place within the broadly defined region of Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the wider Pacific and Indian Ocean Worlds. We particularly encourage participants to consider how their research informs wider questions, including but not limited to:

  • What are the existing trends in animal histories in this region? What factors have shaped historians’ decisions about which animals are centred in these histories?
  • Is there an imbalance between more and less ‘charismatic’ animals in the region’s historical scholarship, or between terrestrial and marine animals?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of interdisciplinary methods for writing animal histories within this regional context?
  • Are there meaningful commonalties or differences between histories of marine, terrestrial, avian, and microbial animals?
  • Are there meaningful commonalities or differences across particular places and periods within this region? What opportunities are there for connective or comparative histories of animals, animal experiences, and human-animal relations across times, sites, and species within this region?
  • Do the distinct animals of Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Pacific and Indian Ocean worlds – both endemic and introduced – generate distinct perspectives for animal histories?

To facilitate participation and discussion of work that is both in-progress and at a more preliminary stage, we invite proposals for two types of presentations, either:

  • Full papers of approximately 15-20 minutes


  • Shorter ‘provocations’. These will be brief presentations (approximately 5 minutes) that focus on a single example, event, problem, source, etc. These will be grouped together in a session focused on how specific cases can speak to the wider questions the workshop is interested in, and/or present new ideas which open up other theoretical or methodological questions.

Proposal Submissions:

We welcome proposals from scholars at all career levels. Postgraduate and early career researchers are particularly encouraged to apply. Proposals should be submitted via email to Dr Rohan Howitt (rohan.howitt@monash.edu) by 31 March 2023.

Please include in your proposal:

  • A brief abstract (no more than 300 words)
  • A brief bio (no more than 200 words)
  • Whether your proposal is for a full paper (15-20 minutes) or a shorter provocation (approximately 5 minutes)


This workshop is intended to be run as an in-person event. If you are interested in participating but are not able to attend in person, please note this in your abstract submission, as there may be some limited opportunities for hybrid or pre-recorded presentations via Zoom. 


The organisers have secured funding to ensure there is no registration cost for the workshop. However, we do not have funding to cover participants’ travel costs. We hope that by aligning the workshop timing and location with the Australian Historical Association’s 2023 Conference, participants might be able to seek alternative sources of funding to attend while minimising the financial and environmental costs of additional travel. If funding is a barrier to attending in person, please contact us about the possibility of remote/hybrid participation.


This workshop is co-convened by Ruby Ekkel (ANU), Simon Farley (Melbourne), Rohan Howitt (Monash), Ruth Morgan (ANU), and Kate Stevens (Waikato). For inquiries, please email rohan.howitt@monash.edu

Image: Leo at Flickr