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Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues 數字對話" #17 Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Book Talk and Discussion with Daniel Vandersommers

14.05.2024 | 15:00
Dan Vandersommers

Dan Vandersommers

Todd Foley

Todd Foley

Chang Liu

Chang Liu

Im Rahmen der Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues 數字對話" diskutieren Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler verschiedene Teilaspekte und Fragestellungen des Verbundprojekts.

Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo

Starting from the second half of the nineteenth century, zoological gardens became a global phenomenon as they began to appear in almost every major city around the globe. In his new book, Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories from the Animal Archive, historian Daniel Vandersommers explores the particular fate of the National Zoological Park of Washington, DC as a site of human-animal interactions during the period from 1887 to 1920. He shows how the animals tried to escape the human confines both literally, by running away, as well as figurately, by resisting the constructions that were created at the zoo. In addition, Daniel Vandersommers shows how the zoo was entangled with virtually every aspect of American science, culture, and conservation through what he calls “popular zoology.” The zoo was a public space at which knowledge about nature and animals was produced and spread within society, it was therefore an important space of “worldmaking.”

Organized by Chang Liu, research fellow at Heidelberg University, the event aims to highlight the manifold roles of the National Zoological Park in American history but also to situate Zoo Studies within the global context of the time by bringing in perspectives from East Asia, and China in particular. Accordingly, following Daniel Vandersommers’s introduction of his books, the two discussants, Todd Foley, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature at NYU, and Matthias Schumann, postdoctoral research fellow at Heidelberg University, will reflect on some of the issues discussed in the book based on their own work on human-animal relations in East Asian history. Afterwards, there will be an open Q&A with the audience.

The event is part of the “Open Humanities Lecture Series” and the Digital Dialogues series of the project “Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China,” funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The Speakers:

Dan Vandersommers is an assistant professor of environmental history. His research interests reside at the intersection of environmental history, animal studies, science studies and posthumanism. Dan is the author of “Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories from the Animal Archive” (University Press of Kansas, 2023), coauthor (with Tracy McDonald) of Zoo Studies: A New Humanities (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2019), and is a Lead Editor of Animal History, the first journal of record in the field. He is currently writing a book titled The Zoo, Uncaged: A New History, under contract with Reaktion, which is a global history of zoos. And he is working on projects concerning race, human zoos, and zoological science.

Todd Foley is an adjunct assistant professor at NYU, where he teaches courses on Chinese literature and film. His research focuses on ideas of humanity and animality in modern and contemporary Chinese literature, as well as ideas of world literature and translation. His published work on the topic of human/animal includes articles on Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Xiao Hong, and Can Xue.

Matthias Schumann is a postdoctoral research fellow at Heidelberg University, where he works on the intersections of religion, society, and politics with a particular focus on human-animal relations. He is co-editor of a recently published volume, Communicating with the Gods: Spirit-Writing in Chinese History and Society (Leiden: Brill, 2023).

Chang Liu recently completed his PhD thesis in Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg University, titled MAOdonna: The Social Life of Madonna in Post-Mao China. He is currently a research fellow at the “Worldmaking from a Global Perspective” project, hosted by the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. He has several forthcoming essays, including “Songs of the World: On the Global Dissemination and Geopolitics of Chinese Rock” and “The Environmentalist Guide to China’s Rock ‘n’ Roll: From Slow Violence to Activism.” He is currently in the early stages of preparing a project on China’s “Transformers Craze,” grounded in the field of energy humanities. Before pursuing a research career in academia, he was a diplomat who served at the French Embassy in China as the musical affairs officer.

Time: 3 pm (CEST) | 9 pm (CST)
Access: The event will take place on Zoom. If you are interested in participating, please contact Chang Liu (chang.liu@hcts.uni-heidelberg.de).