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6 February 2023

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The Belcher One-Day Colloquium, “Victorians and Animal Welfare: The Transnational Network in Literature, Culture and Intellectual Thought”

The Belcher One-Day Colloquium will be held at St Hugh’s College on Thursday 2 March 2023 and will focus on: “‘Victorians and Animal Welfare: The Transnational Network in Literature, Culture and Intellectual Thought”.

The Victorian era in general viewed animals not as mere property or utility, but as thinking, feeling subjects worthy of inclusion within a political community. It is increasingly in this light that the nineteenth-century British animal welfare movement and animal characters in Victorian literature are now being re-examined. Rather than regarding the literary sphere as a means of generating static influence over human attitudes towards animals, the deliberations at this colloquium shall seek to prove that it may be regarded as a repository of resources open to uses in the ongoing animal welfare/rights movement of the later nineteenth century in Britain and as the stepping stones to deeper ecological consciousness of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It aims to probe deeper into the patterns of involvement which writers such as Thomas Hardy, social reformers such as Henry Salt and Edward Carpenter evinced in the burgeoning animal rights movement, which was not restricted to Britain at this time but spread to several of her then colonies too, conspicuously evident in the thoughts and ideas which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi imbibed, and incorporated into his philosophy from the metropole. One cannot ignore the interconnected mesh of events that makes the Victorian period, especially the fin de siècle, a truly transnational phenomenon. The rationale behind mapping the socio-intellectual milieu, in which the animal welfare movement was widening its influence, including within its ambit the ideas and practices of vegetarianism, anti-vivisection, re-evaluating the underpinnings of science vis a vis animals and examining the non-human animal in Victorian Britain, as well as acquiring its transnational character, is that it deserves a better and in-depth look by the present era of heightened ecological consciousness and planned developmental policies. This Colloquium will aim to consider a few of these things: Victorian writers, thinkers and influencers, with similar inclinations and deep commitment to and involvement in the animal welfare movement, legislation and scientific practices related to animal welfare in Britain and Colonial India during this time, as also the literary representations of the changing dynamics of the animal-human relationship, and to open up further vistas for research into the relevance of studying the Victorian times in the twenty-first century contexts.

The Programme Schedule may be found by clicking here.

A very small number of seats are available for interested listeners or non-presenting participants by invitation. Requests may be sent to Dr Oindrila Ghosh (Belcher Fellow in Victorian Studies) at by Wednesday 15 February 2023.

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