CFP Uncomfortable companions: living and dying with awkward creatures, AAG 2014

Session(s) call for papers: “Uncomfortable companions: living and dying with awkward creatures”

Association of American Geographers Annual Conference, 2014 Tampa, Florida

Organisers: Franklin Ginn (Edinburgh University), Uli Beisel (Lancaster University), Maan Barua (University of Oxford).

Sponsored by the Animal Geography Specialty Group.


This session invites papers on uncomfortable nonhuman companions and more-than-human relations marked by ambiguity, radical alterity, alienation, conflict, violence, or more subtle forms of the ‘uncomfortable’, such as detachment, distance or withdrawal.

There is now an extensive corpus of work on the ways non-human creatures come to matter in technological assemblages, urban spaces, bio-capitalism, global networks of production and consumption, as well as in intimate co-relation to humans, and animals have carved niches in health, historical, and political geography, as well as political ecology and eco-Marxism (Buller, 2013; Urbanik, 2012; Lorimer, 2012; Johnston, 2008). Animal geographies have shown how nonhumans come to exhibit vitality, a will for than mere survival and capacities for resistance and transgression (Braun, 2008). Moreover, the more-than-human has been worked back to the very foundations of traditional political and ethical thought, with increased scepticism that systems of thought rooted in Human exceptionalism are up to the task of earthly cosmopolitics in this Anthropocene age (Haraway 2008; Latour, 2013).

The session seeks to supplement animal geography’s focus on animals that are ‘big like us’ (Hird 2010), and open up spaces of inquiry beyond what Buller (2013) has labelled the ‘mammalian hegemony’. We therefore invite papers that engage with what Serres calls ‘other others: belling or howling living things and resonating things’ (2012: 196). In particular, while noting the vitality, liveliness and complex inter-weavings of humans and nonhumans in shaping our world(s), this session invites papers that scrutinize the spaces between ‘species’ and between attachment, non-human inscrutability and difference-in-relation (Candea 2010; Morton, 2010; Lulka 2012; Yusoff, 2013).

We welcome papers that engage with:

  • Insects, bacteria, fungi, molluscs, plants, viruses
  • Extra-terrestrial, mythological or speculative creatures
  • Non-humans as disease vectors
  • Individual animal biographies
  • Dangerous or aggressive beasts
  • More-than-human geographies beyond Euro-American settings
  • Dilemmas of killing and preservation
  • Non-human death or finitude

We especially encourage conceptual or position papers. We also welcome empirical papers with contemporary and/or historical foci and/or employing experimental methods.

Abstracts (250 words) should be submitted by 21 October 2013 to Franklin Ginn (


Braun B 2008 Environmental issues: Inventive life Progress in Human Geography 32 667-679

Buller H 2013 Animal geographies I Progress in Human Geography

Johnston C 2008 Beyond the clearing: Towards a dwelt animal geography Progress in Human Geography 32 633-649

Latour B 2013 An inquiry into modes of existence Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Lorimer J 2012 Multinatural geographies for the anthropocene Progress in Human Geography 36 593-612

Lulka D 2012 The lawn; or on becoming a killer Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30 207-225

Morton T 2010 The ecological thought Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London

Serres M 2012 Biogea Univocal, Minneapolis

Urbanik J 2012 Placing animals: An introduction to the geography of human-animal relations Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MY

Yusoff K 2013 Insensible worlds: Postrelational ethics, indeterminacy and the (k)nots of relating Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 31 208-226


Anthropocene origin tales: another

Animated along some life-seeking vector, a seed pod lands on a pile human of refuse. Refuse composed not of circuit boards; not a fridge mountain, nor an endless sea of biodegradable shopping bags, but a heap of bone and faeces. The seed pod has no ears, no vision, but nevertheless fits perfectly in its own world. Its world is made of warmth and cold, the regular play of light and dark, and quiet, thrifty labour. The seed sits; it works slowly.


 At the far edge of the rough settlement they pile the gall bladders, flesh-boiled skulls, unsavoury meats and the withered leaves. They throw whatever they no longer need in hollow dips dug in the ground. There they urinate and defecate. When one of these pits is filled they dig another.


 The seed visitor grows.


 The first garden was not Eden. The first garden was started by a lucky plant; a plant that accepted a generous gift of human shit. The first garden was an inter-kingdom exchange.


Have all along plants been cultivating us even as we cultivated them?


Gardening person
Gardening person