Literary and Visual Representations of Animals from Central Asia to the Maghreb

From Morning Hunt to Beloved Gazelle: Literary and Visual Representations of Animals from Central Asia to the Maghreb

15-16th December, 2021
University of Cambridge

This conference seeks to rethink the literatures and arts of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persianate and Turkish lands through the presence of non-human animals situated within their ‘worlds’, whether these be pastoral gardens, constructions of the wild, or the interstices of human habitations.

We invite papers that consider what these imagined animal worlds say about human animals, and how they shape the structure, imagery, and language of literary and artistic creativity.

Through tracing the migration of animals across aesthetic forms, we seek to gain fresh perspectives on the entanglement of species, on literary, cultural, and creative boundaries, and the development of genres, as well as their rooting in the material world.

Contributions are invited that address literature, art, and film from the early Medieval period to the present, and that establish connections across eras, geographies, and languages. We hope in the process to address the primarily Eurocentric foundations of Critical Animal Studies, and to provide an impetus for further study of the rich presence of animals in Middle Eastern literatures, art, and film.

Proposals for individual contributions and panels are invited, particularly, but not exclusively, papers (max. 20 minutes, exclusive of Q&A) that address the following:

  • Comparative perspectives on animal tropes, motifs and genres
  • Animal intertextuality between and within classical, popular, and modern traditions
  • The influence of religious/spiritual beliefs on the representation of animals
  • Animals and environment as agentive presences within literature and art
  • Animals in allegorical narratives
  • Texts written through and about animal worlds
  • Human and animal interactions; human interference in animal worlds
  • The use and transformation of zoological reality into artistic vocabulary
  • Fantastical creatures
  • Investigations and deconstructions of the human-nonhuman boundary
  • Cross-regional and generic perspectives on specific species


Please submit abstracts of between 300 and 500 words to Dr Charis Olszok (co383@cam.ac.uk) by Friday, April 30th. Decisions will be sent out by the May 31st. We hope to hold the conference in person, at Cambridge (the conference language will be English). In addition, we intend to publish select conference papers in a peer-reviewed journal by Spring 2023.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with questions.

Dr Christine van-Ruymbeke
Dr Christiane Esche-Ramshorn
Dr Charis Olszok

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