Workshop 2023 Fur, Finn and Feathers: Commodifying Wild Animals

Fur, Fin and Feather: Commodifying Wild Animals

Commodities of Empire International Workshop, University of York [6th and 7th July 2023]

Following on the 2022 meeting on domesticated animals, we focus in this workshop on the commodification of wild (i.e. non-domesticated and non-tamed) animals.

Almost every part of the body of wild animals has been used in some way by humans. Animal fur, feather, skin, hair, and wool have provided warmth. Animal flesh has provided sustenance. Animal shells, bones, hoofs, and teeth have provided material for tools, trinkets and ornaments, and animal fat, oil and excrement have served as fuel and fertilisers. Before the advent of synthetic materials in the early twentieth century, natural substances derived from plants and animals were the only ones available to humans. They were valued highly and, in some cases, traded over long distances.  We ask how animal body parts were procured, traded, transported and processed, and assess how this changed between places and over time.

We further explore the global trade in live animals, either as menagerie inmates or exotic pets, the commodification of hunting and tourism, and the role of wild animals in laboratory experiments.

We are especially interested in how transoceanic trade, colonization and the global expansion of capitalism shaped the exploitation of wild animals, and in the ways in which new technologies, scientific advances and shifting tastes and fashions impacted on the supply and demand for animal products and services related to animals. We are also interested in the ethical issues raised by the over-harvesting of wild animal commodities, excessive leisure pursuits, and the measures taken to mitigate such over-exploitation. How has the treating of animals as global commodities impacted the survival of wild animal populations, and the wider ecosystems within which they operate? What are the animal welfare implications of commodifying wild animals? What role have concerns about animal suffering played in influencing demand for animal products and activities related to wild animals?

This two-day workshop will be held at the University of York on 6 and 7 July 2023 and is part of the Commodities of Empire British Academy Research Project. Following the long-standing practice of Commodities of Empire workshops, papers will be grouped in thematic panels, pre-circulated to all workshop participants, and panel discussions will be opened by a chair or discussant. Paper-givers will then have the possibility to reply succinctly, and this will be followed by open discussion.

The workshop is planned as an in-person event, though with scope for participants to be involved virtually where necessary.

Download Workshop Programme