Animals as peoples: SE Asian literature & the anthropomorphic imaginary talk and workshop

ONCA Gallery

14 St George’s Place
Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4GB United Kingdom

28 June 6pm – 8pm

Book here: Animals as Peoples: SE Asian Literature & the Anthropomorphic Imaginary – O N C A

Charlotte’s Web. Animal Farm. These are just two notable literary works from the Anglophone world that depict animals like people. But should we? Join writer-researcher Nazry Bahrawi at ONCA Gallery for a talk and workshop exploring anthropomorphism in Southeast Asian animal stories.

In the Western hemisphere, the field of animal studies has evolved to distance itself from anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human traits and behaviours to non-human subjects. Anthropologist Dr. Jane Desmond, series editor of Animal Lives at University of Chicago Press, prefers academic manuscripts that consider animals “in light of their minds, emotions and social histories”.

Contrary to Desmond’s view, this workshop posits that anthropomorphism in animal stories still has its place. It makes the case that this is a staple feature of maritime Southeast Asian animal stories and folk tales, one that is especially pertinent for its peoples to make sense of race relations in the highly multicultural region, where ethnic Malays, Chinese and South Asians live, work and play.

If you are interested in the intersections between literature, narrative and animality, join us as we explore prose and poetry of real and mythical beasts from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to delve into the good and bad of anthropomorphism.

Excerpts will be provided. You are also invited to share your own animal story by way of an object, a memory or sheer fabrication. This workshop is suitable for literary enthusiasts, creative writers and poets as well as nature lovers with little to no knowledge of Southeast Asia.

Workshop reading materials:


Image credit: illustration from New Straits Times, June 9th 1990. Detail from KS Maniam – Haunting the Tiger