The zoo has always been the paradigmatic site for human-animal encounters in modernity. Authors, artists, and filmmakers have long been drawn to this space as a source of inspiration and as a means for reflecting on social, political, and global issues relating to class, gender, race, nationality, not to mention the myriad complex and often contradictory aspects of the human–animal relationship. The zoo is thus not merely a physical space but also a space of the imagination which both mirrors and shapes the broader cultural understanding of the natural world and our relationship to it.
Over the last two decades, in the context of growing public awareness of climate change and mass extinction, that relationship has been changing. During the same period, the zoo has become a focal point for a new wave of literary and cinematic representations which reflect the fears and uncertainties about the future, but also seek to imagine alternative, multispecies futures. Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene is a three-year research project supported by a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), which takes these representations as as a lens through which to explore how the relationship between humans and the natural world is changing in the age of the Anthropocene.