Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene


10 November 2021
17:15 - 19:00

Keynote: Louise Green, “A Zoo and Its Public: The Short Life and Slow Decline of a Colonial Menagerie”

A Zoo and Its Public:
The Short Life and Slow Decline of a Colonial Menagerie

Keynote: Louise Green (Stellenbosch)
Wednesday 10 November 2021

In the third decade of the twenty-first century, the Groote Schuur Zoo, formerly known as Rhodes Menagerie, lies derelict. Bars have been taken away to be sold as scrap metal, walls have been partially knocked down and nature has reclaimed the paths and enclosures. Situated between Table Mountain and the busy M3 freeway, it has been overtaken by local and imported species of plants and animals, wild grasses and oak trees, puff adders and gray squirrels. The contours of the carefully planned space are blurred by overgrowth and fallen leaves. What, if anything, can this strange relic of the colonial past signify about zoos in the age of the Anthropocene? Mimicking the logic of the zoo, this talk takes the form of series of adjacent enclosures that bring together anecdote, history, news report, photography and fiction to explore the way the animals gathered at this site, and the people who gathered them, all long since dead, can be read as a form of prehistory of zoo making in the present moment of crisis and revision.

Louise Green, author of Fragments from the History of Loss: the Nature Industry and the Postcolony (2020), is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Stellenbosch University. She is interested in critical theory, studies in modernity and globalization and tracing the elusive, mobile and diverse formations of value in late capitalist society. Her research proposes Africa as an important site for a philosophical engagement with the universalising impulse that marks contemporary narratives of environmental crisis.