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

AAG reflection

A week has now passed since the Association of American Geographers 2013 Conference in Los Angeles, so I thought I’d briefly reflect on it. For me the star of the conference was the Bonaventure Hotel. This iconic piece of postmodern architecture has so much personality; the look of the week was people turning their heads in a bemused way, “Where am I going?” Being constantly lost. Having sessions in hotel suites. Then there were the little external lift/pods, which zoomed up and down all day (I was in one late at night and gibbered something incomprehensibly fan-like to David Harvey, who stepped in just after me), and those gondolas, immortalilzed by Ed Soja’s BBC video, where nobody sat.


I attended a lot of animal geography, more by accident than plan. A panel session seemed to conclude that animal geographies was on one hand still a small niche, not really respected, while on the other that animals are now studied across the discipline. Henry Buller seemed to suggest, a bit cheekily I assume, that in 10 years’ time if animal geography didn’t exist, but suffused the discipline, this would be an achievement. Jamie Lorimer had some interesting things to say, as ever, on more-than-human methods that could get ‘us’ closer to the lifeworlds of animals. Henry and Mara Miele’s session on spaces of imagination and encounter was also great – a highlight was Islay Forsyth’s paper on Voytek the polish bear, and I’m still processing David Lulka’s 4D animal idea… This made me want to finish my own piece on Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas. Liz Hennessy’s sessions on science and species production was really well put together, with barely a dud paper all day.

I only dipped into sessions on the Anthropocene, unfortunately it clashed with the session I presented in. I’m still not sure we should be embracing the term so readily. I’m also more convinced than ever the mourning and melancholia are not productive reactions or likely to lead to useful geo-politics; Arun Saldanha’s piece on geo-communism was a welcome provocation. My own early-work-in-progress piece on animals and apocalypse appeared in Tim Edensor and Steve Millington’s great sessions on geographies of darkness and light, although my paper felt a bit tangental there.

LA itself was pretty dreadful, though views of the vast sprawl from the rotating bar at on the 37th floor of the Bonaventure were undeniably awesome. A post-conference road trip took in Californian landscapes of sea, mountain and desert: an amazing, infuriating place.

Wilderness parking in Yosemite: in the US, you can’t have the wild without the automobile…