Conference: Colonial Dimensions of the Global Wildlife Trade

Am Montag, 28.11.2022

Monday, 28 November 2022 in Göttingen
Nicht domestizierte Tiere wurden schon seit Jahrhunderten gefangen und lebend über teils weite Strecken transportiert, doch zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts intensivierte sich dieser Handel zunehmend. Neu etablierte Zoologische Gärten und die Ausweitung bereits bestehender Institutionen wie Zirkusse sorgten für steigende Nachfrage und aufkommende Umwelt- und Naturschutzbewegungen. Der sich in diesem Zuge professionalisierende Wildtierhandel war dabei nicht nur in koloniale Strukturen und Diskurse eingebettet, sondern gestaltete diese aktiv mit.

Die am 28. November 2022 in Göttingen stattfindende Konferenz will diese Verflechtungen näher beleuchten und die Verbindungen des Wildtierhandels zu anderen Handelsformen, etwa mit tierlichem Material oder ethnografischen Objekten, untersuchen. Die englischsprachige Konferenz wird vom Deutschen Zentrum Kulturgutverluste gefördert und in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Netzwerk Provenienzforschung in Niedersachsen vom Seminar für Neuere Geschichte der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen organisiert. Alle weiteren Informationen untenstehend auf Englisch.


The practice of moving live undomesticated animals to different regions has been in place for centuries. Since the middle of the 19th century, however, the trade in wildlife intensified and live animals were transported in growing numbers. While they often were presented as ›wild‹, some animals such as elephants and camels had been tamed or even domesticated. This begs the question what exactly they needed to embody in order to become of interest for ›wild‹ animal dealers, and for the institutions that would keep them.

The conference sets out to examine these discursive as well as practical effects, with a focus on the first half of the 20th century. It starts from the understanding that the global trade in ›wild‹ animals was not only imbedded in colonial structures and discourses, but equally involved in re-shaping and producing new ones. For instance, new professions and new forms of knowledge emerged in the wake of the trade, e.g., in the form of transportation methods and zoo medicine. Professional animal dealers were also involved in the emerging environmental and nature protection movements of the time, including (monetised) attempts to save animals from extinction and re-introduction of so-called endangered species to the wild.

Tackling these entanglements, the conference will look at key actors involved in the trade and in the movement of the animals. It will also scrutinise the connections of the trade to other related branches, such as the trade in animal material and ethnographic objects, and the spaces that it produced and operated in.

The conference is funded by the German Lost Art Foundation and organised by the Modern History Department of the University of Göttingen in cooperation with the Network for Provenance Research of Lower Saxony. It will take place in-person on Monday, 28 November 2022, at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen.We are currently considering a hybrid version; please also get in touch in case you would like to attend virtually.

Attendance welcomed.
Please register by stating your name, institution and preferred email address until 18 November 2022. For registrations and any inquiries, please contact Sophia Annweiler ().

* Please note that small changes to the programme may occur.
10:00 Arrival & Registration

10:30 Welcoming Remarks by Dr. Jan Hüsgen (German Lost Art Foundation),
Dr. Claudia Andratschke (Network for Provenance Research of Lower Saxony),
Prof. Dr. Rebekka Habermas & Charlotte Hoes (University of Göttingen)

11:00 Panel I – Global Networks and Local Repercussions: Trading Animals within Colonial Contexts
Prima Nurahmi Mulyasari (Institute for Area Studies Indonesia)
Global Animal Dealers in Colonial Indonesia in the early 20th century
Annika Dörner (Universität Erfurt)
Camels for Kaiser: Mobilizing Hagenbecks Trading Network to sell 2000 Dromedaries to the German Colonial Army
Dr. Violette Pouillard (French National Centre for Scientific Research / Ghent University)
Van Straelen’s networks: Collecting and exhibiting protected animals, Congo-Belgium, ca. 1925-1960

12:45 Lunch Break

13:45 Panel II – Strategies and Make Do: Acquisitions, Trading, and Zoological Gardens
Prof. Dr. Raf de Bont (Maastricht University)
The Economy of Rarity: Charles Cordier, Cryptozoology and the Zoo Trade
Barrie Blatchford (Columbia University)
“A Monkey in Every Home”: Henry Trefflich and the Twentieth-Century Exotic Animal Trade in America
Dr. Marianna Szczygielska (Czech Academy of Sciences)
Lion Capital: Zoo acquisition strategies in interwar Poland

15:30 Coffee Break

16:15 Panel III – Collecting Animals, Collecting Objects? Entanglements of Colonialism, Ethnology, and Natural Sciences
Kerstin Pannhorst (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
“Hecatombs of insects”: colonial dimensions of specimen collecting
Dr. Catarina Madruga (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)
Evaluating value: Practices of acquisition of colonial fauna in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, 1900-1928
Callum Fisher (Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage Berlin)
Empire, Ethnology and the Natural Sciences in Hamburg’s Museum Godeffroy

18:30 Keynote
Prof. Dr. Jonathan Saha (Durham University)
Decolonizing Elephants: The Imperial Accumulation of Animal Capital and the End of Empire in Myanmar