EPISODE 2 | INSTITUTIONALISING THE NON-HUMAN? IN CONVERSATION WITH GITTE WESTERGAARD AND ANNE MAABJERG MIKKELSEN

In this episode, we talk to Gitte Westergaard, doctoral fellow associated with the Greenhouse Environmental Humanities Research Group at the University of Stavanger, and our colleague in the RTG minor cosmopolitanisms, Anne Maabjerg Mikkelsen. Both researchers deal with questions within the environmental humanities, exploring the posthuman through the prism of concepts like sacrality and liminality. The point of departure for the conversation is Gitte’s article, co-written with Dolly Jørgensen, titled “Making Specimens Sacred: Putting the Bodies of Solitario Jorge and Cụ Rùa on Display”. The conversation weaves Gitte’s work on the display of extinct giant tortoise Lonesome George’s remains in the Galapagos through with Anne’s work with the Ọ̀ṣun-Òṣogbo Sacred Grove in Nigeria and its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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In conversation with:

Gitte Westergaard (University of Stavangar), and Anne Maabjerg Mikkelsen (University of Potsdam)

Gitte Westergaard is a doctoral fellow associated with the Greenhouse environmental humanities research group at the University of Stavanger. She is part of the research project ‘Beyond Dodos and Dinosaurs: Displaying Extinction and Recovery of Species in Museums.’ Her research explores displays of extinct island species and the colonial narratives embedded in them. She earned her master’s degree in sustainable heritage management from Aarhus University in 2018.

Anne Maabjerg Mikkelsen is a doctoral fellow with the Research Training Group Minor Cosmopolitanisms at the University of Potsdam, where she also obtained her master’s degree in ‘Anglophone Modernities in Literature and Culture’ in 2018. Her project explores the various (spiritual, anticolonial, economic, sacred, ecological, political) interpretations of 2005 UNESCO World Heritage enlistment of the Yorùbá Ọ̀ṣun-Òṣogbo Sacred Grove (Nigeria) with the aim to respect and include locally embedded knowledge within the indigenous Òrìṣà community. Here, the Òrìṣà Ọ̀ṣun (whose abode is the Grove) and other spirits are actively participating in political decision making. Anne’s main question and interest is: How to include narratives, where the protagonists are spiritual energies, in an academic tradition that is highly secular? Anne has a bacher’s degree in History of Ideas from Aarhus University, where she also got to know Gitte back in 2011.

Images:

The mounted body of Solitario Jorge on display in the Hall of Hope on Santa Cruz Island, the Galápagos, November 2019. Photo by Gitte Westergaard.
Ọ̀ṣun figure in the river. Photo by Anne Maabjerg Mikkelsen.

References:

  • Westergaard, Gitte & Dolly Jørgensen. “Making Specimens Sacred: Putting the Bodies of Solitario Jorge and Cụ Rùa on Display.” In Animal Remains, edited by Sarah Bezan and Robert McKay, London & New York: Routledge, 2021.
  • Braidotti, Rosi. “In Spite of the Times: The Postsecular Turn in Feminism.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 25 no. 6, 2008, pp. 1-24.
  • Faniyi, Adedoyin Talabi. See the interview “Sacred Groves and Secret Parks” from Harvard University Graduate School Design:  https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/2020/10/sacred-groves-and-secret-parks-an-interview-with-princess-adedoyin-talabi-faniyi-and-moises-lino-e-silva/
  • Susanne Wenger Adunni Olorisa Trust, Lagos, Nigeria. Founded in 1998 to help preserve and protect the Osun Grove and the erected sacred art: http://www.susannewenger-aot.org/.
  • Nicholls, Henry. Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon. New York: Macmillan, 2010.
  • American Museum of Natural History. “Preserving Lonesome George Short Doc.” AMNH, January 4, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd0D7O-S-c8
  • UNESCO, “Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre 1992-2018. United Nations, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/. The Nomination to the World Heritage List written by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2004 and other documents related to the enlistment of the Osun Grove are available here.
  • UNESCO. “Galápagos Islands.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre,1978, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1.