Kaori Nagai, Imperial Beast Fables: Animals, Cosmopolitanism, and the British Empire



Join the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies (LCVS) in their next #LCVSVirtual event on Friday 5 March as they look to explore the significance of non-European beast fables in 19th century British Empire.

What’s happening?

These fables were among the first texts which the colonisers studied to learn local languages: the white settlers/colonisers were educated in the school of non-European fables in which animals, who welcome the colonisers, teach them the art of migration, transculturation and colonial appropriation. These fables, populated by exotic animal characters, also facilitated the representation of non-human animals as fellow imperial subjects, and even conjured up a vision of animal cosmopolitanism, in which a close kinship between humans and other animals is dreamt of.  

Building on the recent ‘animal turn’ in studies of the fable, Kaori Nagai will offer a re-interpretation of the fable as a theatre of the human-animal relationship, especially within the context of British imperialism. She will explore various ways in which nineteenth-century animal fables double-talked to embody the ideologies and values of the British Empire, while covertly critiquing them. An imperial beast fable might display the power of Empire as brutal, animal power, as can be seen in the Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling’s re-working of the non-European beast fable tradition; on the other hand, the fact that this power is put on show allows us to step back from it, to create a narrative space in which to reflect upon and resist it. 


Friday 5 March, 12.00 – 1.00pm


This event will be delivered remotely via a Microsoft Teams meeting.

How can I book?

To register your place, please email Jane de Gay.

About Kaori Nagai

Kaori Nagai is a Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent. She specialises in colonial discourses of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and her recent research focuses on the intersections between animal studies and postcolonial studies. She is the author of two monographs: Empire of Analogies: Kipling, India and Ireland (2006), and more recently, Imperial Beast Fables: Animals, Cosmopolitanism, and the British Empire (2020). She has also edited, with an introduction and notes, Kipling’s Plain Tales from the Hills and the Jungle Books for Penguin Classics, and co-edited Kipling and Beyond: Patriotism, Globalisation and Postcolonialism (2010). She is a founding member of the Kent Animal Humanities Network and edited a collection of essays entitled Cosmopolitan Animals (2015, chief editor) with five animal studies colleagues at Kent.