Red fox on beach with sand and grasses

Writing the more-than-human

A panel of critically acclaimed writers dissect dominating writing forms and explore how to move beyond human exceptionalism when writing about more-than-human worlds.

Today, a range of disciplines are discovering or perhaps acknowledging the many and marvelous capacities and qualities of beings other than humans, the complexity of their relationships, and the twin fallacies of human exceptionalism and individualism. Yet even as what or who we know is undergoing radical transformations, writers find themselves working with the languages and grammars forged to convey and compose worlds we would better leave behind. Within this old writing world, where freedom, agency, creativity, and complex feelings are the unique preserve of humans (and even then, only some humans), writers face the invidious choice of being accused of anthropomorphism or remaining mired in mechanomorphism. Both do violence to the myriad and diverse ways of being that teem through the more than human world and to the complex entanglements within which all life, including human life, emerges.

Writers Alexis Wright, Danielle Celermajer and Hayley Singer will reflect on their own writing practices and how they are navigating the challenge of crafting texts that open out to the adventures of living differently and living together that writing might reveal.

This event was held online on Thursday 24 June 2021.

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Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book, Wright has published three works of non-fiction: Take Power, an oral history of the Central Land Council; Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory; and Tracker, an award-winning collective memoir of Aboriginal leader, Tracker Tilmouth. She was recently named the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.

Danielle Celermajer is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Her research stands at the interface of theories exploring the multi-dimensional nature of injustice and the practice of human rights, focusing on the relational intra-space between human and non-human animals. Along with her multispecies community, she has recently lived through the NSW fires, writing in the face of their experience of the “killing of everything”, which she calls “omnicide”. Danielle is the Research Lead on Concepts and Practices of Multispecies Justice and has recently published her first trade book, Summertime: Reflections on a Vanishing Future (Penguin, 2021) to critical acclaim.

Hayley Singer’s research and writing practice move across the fields of creative writing, critical ecological feminisms and feminist animal studies. Her essays have appeared in The MonthlyArt + Australia, the Animal Studies Journal and she has been the ecologies columnist for the quarterly attack journal, The Lifted Brow. She is currently completing her first full-length work, The Fleischgeist: a haunting.

Blanche Verlie (Chair) is a climate change communication and education researcher and practitioner. Her work explores the ways that environmental engagement theories and strategies might change if we took our entanglement with the more-than-human world seriously, including what kinds of stories might create inhabitable templates for multispecies collective climate action. Blanche is currently completing a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Sydney Environment Institute, and her first book, Learning to Live with Climate Change, will be published by Routledge in June.

Header image: Vasu Pendyala via Unsplash.