UNE English Professor Susan McHugh co-edits new volume in series on animals and literature

Book cover of Indigenous Creatures: Native Knowledges, Animals, and the Arts in Modern Worlds, Wendy Woodward, Susan McHugh, eds

A new book co-edited by Susan McHugh, Ph.D., professor and chair in the Department of English, is the latest volume to be published in the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature series published by Palgrave MacMillan. Sampling a broad array of creative endeavors, Indigenous Creatures: Native Knowledges, Animals, and the Arts in Modern Worlds brings together work by academics and creative practitioners that explores how the recent philosophical “animal turn” in scholarship informs revaluations of indigenous knowledges in ways that loft new possibilities for shared human-animal futures.

Legendary anthropologist and novelist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas praises the volume as “an important book concerning animals that reports artistic views held by a wide array of people from a variety of cultures.” According to McHugh, traditionally, animals have been imagined in relation to spiritual realms and the occult, whether as animist gods, familiars, conduits to ancestors, totems, talismans or co-creators of multispecies cosmologies. Questioning the settler-colonialist pattern of dismissing such associations as merely primitive, contributors to the volume, she says, engage instead with the ongoing struggle to understand animals in indigenous epistemologies at face value, on their own terms and as vital players in the lives of cultures. 

With examples from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries, the case studies gathered in Indigenous Creatures explore the roots of the struggle in colonial contact zones, where the stakes include conceptual as much as physical survival, McHugh states. Contributors’ explorations of the frictions as well as cross-overs between indigenous beliefs and those of modernity taking shape in literature, film and visual art situate how and why old ways are disappearing, as well as, in some key cases, being adapted to modern conditions of life shared across species lines.

McHugh has also authored two monographs, Dog (2004) and Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (2011), and co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (2014). McHugh's work on Indigenous Creatures with co-editor Wendy Woodward was made possible in part by a grant from UNE's Office of Sponsored Programs.

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