Dr Dominic O'Key
My research spans literary studies, critical theory and the environmental humanities. I study the relationship between postcolonial thought and human-animal relations. I am currently at work on my first book, in which I write about how writers write about animals.
In 2019, I was appointed Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRC-funded project ‘Thinking Through Extinction’. Working with Stefan Skrimshire, I explore the cultural meanings of the Sixth Mass Extinction Event and investigate how museums are grappling with the natural and unnatural histories of biodiversity loss.
Before this, I worked as a Study Abroad Adviser, a Postdoctoral Resarch Assistant on ‘Animist Engagements’, and a seminar tutor and lecturer on various modules in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures.
My book project examines how literature can transform human-animal relations. Titled Creaturely Forms in Contemporary Literature: Narrating the War Against Animals, the book explores the work of three celebrated authors (W. G. Sebald, J. M. Coetzee, Mahasweta Devi) who each turned to the figure of the animal in the late twentieth century.
This research is informed by my PhD in Comparative Literature, which I gained in spring 2019. I was supervised by Dr Helen Finch and Dr Sam Durrant, and was supported by Professor Stuart Taberner's Leverhulme Trust Major Research Project "Traumatic Pasts, Cosmopolitanism, and Nation-Building in Contemporary German and South African Literature". My PhD research was fully funded by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies and the Doctoral College.
Activities and engagement:
Editorial: From 2017 to 2019, I was an associate editor of the cultural studies and critical theory journal, parallax.
Events: From 2015–2017 I convened the Creaturely Life reading group. In 2016/17 I co-directed Quilting Points, the interdisciplinary critical theory group. For this, Rachel Johnson and I explored the work of Hannah Arendt, and invited presentations from Profs. Simon Swift (Geneva), Patrick Hayden (St Andrews) and Lyndsey Stonebridge (East Anglia). I also co-organised a number of workshops on World Literature and Memory Studies, including the WRoCAH-funded event World Against Globe: Reconceptualising World Literatures Today (April 2016); a joint workshop with Kings College London, Futures of Memory (Feb 2017), funded by the Leverhulme Trust; and, in May 2017, Ian Ellison and I hosted a one-day PGR conference on the future of studying W. G. Sebald, Beyond Sebald: New Trajectories in Sebald Studies, funded by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies. In June 2018, I organised and hosted a conversation with journalist Daniel Trilling about borders, migration, and his recent book Lights in the Distance: Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe.
Animal studies at Leeds: I am a co-director of the Leeds Animal Studies Network and an active member of the Northern Animals collective. Caitlin Stobie and I organised the second meeting of the collective, Northern Animals #2: Animals and Borders. Hosted at the Leeds Museum's Discovery Centre, our workshop explored the concept of "borders" from an animal studies perspective. The workshop featured a store tour of the Discovery Centre’s collection of illegal and confiscated taxidermy, public engagement with New Wortley Community Centre's Men's Walking Group, and an evening reading by the South African author Henrietta Rose-Innes. This event was funded by the Institute of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, the British Society for Literature and Science, International Writers at Leeds, and the School of English.
Recent conferences and workshops: I have presented research at numerous conferences and workshops. In reverse chronological order:
- 2020: SPNHC & ICOMNATHIST, Edinburgh; Inhuman Memory: Race and Ecology Across Timescales, KCL; English: Shared Futures, Manchester [All engagements in 2020 disrupted due to COVID-19]
- 2019: Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene, Utrecht University; Maritime Animals, University of Kent and the National Maritime Museum, London; Animal Remains, University of Sheffield; Historical Materialism, SOAS
- 2018: Comparative Literature Summer School: Principles, Practices, Perspectives, University of Kent; Archives of Resistance: Cosmopolitanism, Memory and World Literature, University of Leeds; Digital Borders: The Politics of Film Distribution in and Beyond Europe, University of Leeds
- 2017: The second annual Memory Studies Assocation conference, University of Copenhagen; University of London's Coetzee and the Archive; 'Contemporary Literature and the Archive' at American Comparative Literature Association Annual Convention
- 2016: Texts, Animals, Environments: Zoopoetics and Environmental Poetics, Universität Würzburg; Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre's workshop Confronting Difficult Pasts; Stockholms Universitet's workshop The Creaturely, The Human, The Global; Questions of Scale in Contemporary Literature, Universiteit Gent; Animal Biographies, Universität Kassel
- 2015: Visualising the Animal, University of Cumbria; In October 2015 I was invited to the University of Manchester to discuss Werner Herzog's documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. You can listen to this paper here.
- 2014: Reading Animals, University of Sheffield
‘Why Look at Taxidermy Animals? Exhibiting, Curating and Mourning the Sixth Mass Extinction Event’, in International Journal of Heritage Studies (accepted, forthcoming 2020).
‘Animal Collectives’, in Style, vol. 54, no. 1 (2020): DOI: 10.5325/style.54.1.0074.
Guest editor of 'Animal Borderlands', a special issue of parallax, vol. 25, no. 4 (2019). DOI: 10.1080/13534645.2020.1733205.
'Herring Fisheries, Fish-Eating and Natural History in W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn', in Literature and Meat Since 1900, ed. by Seán McCorry and John Miller (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)
'Postscript, Posthuman: Werner Herzog's "Crocodile" at the End of the World', in Animal Biographies, ed. by André Krebber and Mieke Roscher (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 185-203. You can also listen to me discuss this paper on the Knowing Animals podcast here.
Selected Public and Academic Reviews
‘Caring About Extinction’, a review of Juno Salazar Parreñas’ Decolonizing Extinction (2019), in Capitalism Nature Socialism (forthcoming 2020)
‘Doomstead Reading’, a review of Jenny Offill’s novel Weather (2020), Review 31, 2020
'Writing Between Species: Yoko Tawada's Memoirs of a Polar Bear', 3:AM Magazine, 2017
'Curiosity and Refusal: Werner Herzog's Late Documentaries', The Cinematologists, 2017<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>
- PhD Comparative Literature
- MA Critical and Cultural Theory
- BA (Hons) English Language and Literature (International)
I hold an Associate Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA). I have developed my teaching practice across various modules in the Faculty of Arts. I have delivered lectures and led seminar groups on modules including Writing Critically (level 1), Poetry: Reading and Interpretation (level 1), Vision and Narrative (level 1), Contemporary World Literature (level 3), and Postcolonial Literature (level 3).
- 2017–18: postgraduate rep for the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, together with co-reps Bashar Almaani, Nathan Brand and Souhaila Messaoudi.
- 2015–18: Mentor to undergraduates on the English and Comparative Literature degree.
Research groups and institutes
- Critical Life Research Group