Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Ecological Imagination in Richard Flanagan's Wanting


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Richard Flanagans Wanting (2008) speculatively reconstructs the lived immediacy of encounters between European settlers and indigenous peoples in Australia during the mid-nineteenth century. Animality is a concept that unifies his novel treatment of the colonial encounter. Though much recent scholarship has illuminated how animal tropes function at the level of discourse to legitimate colonial practice ranging from the appropriation of bodies and land to genocide relatively little attention has been paid to the affective complexities that may have animated them at the level of lived experience. While discourses of animality can be read ideologically i.e., simply as pretexts for conquest Flanagan also reads them as symptoms of ambivalence. For he suggests that the colonizer, while driven to represent the indigene as immured within a reductively conceived animal body, is simultaneously attracted to indigenous modes of being-in-the-world. Flanagan represents the indigene as attractive to the colonizer precisely because he/she is unburdened by humanist and religious ideology: i.e., the indigene is figured as radically open to an inner world of affective intensities wrought in connection with local ecologies. Thus Flanagan posits the indigene as a model for new ecological sensibilities: ones that are open to the complexity and beauty of nonhuman exteriority, namely because they embrace human animality, vulnerability, and mortality as a welcome ontological condition.

Conference Name

Ecology and the Environmental Humanities

Conference Location

Rice University - Houston, Texas

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