Alexander Clayton

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Advisory Council FellowPhD Candidate, University of Michigan

"The Living Animal: Animating Nature in the Colonial Menagerie, 1750-1890"

My research examines the trade and display of animal life in the long-nineteenth century Atlantic World. Displayed in an array of commercial, zoological, and circus menageries, this influx of vibrant and observable animal life marked a radical shift in ways of seeing, understanding, and organizing the world. My project examines how the fragility and complexity of animal life necessitated an increasing dependence on Indigenous knowledge and labor, from enslaved Gambian children transported with lions for purposes of labor and exhibition to Bengali traders who captured and sold rhinoceros to global markets. Centering these contributions, "The Living Animal" explores how imperial powers attempted to manipulate living things as commodities and scientific objects, as well as the ways in which biting, thinking, and acting animals came to shape human systems of knowledge and governance.