Looking for Abu’l Abbas

I am presently working on a narrative nonfiction book that follows the journey of an Asian elephant presented in Europe as part of a medieval embassy. It draws on textual, embodied and ethnographic research to tell a story that is part animal biography, part narrative of migration and part travelogue of research’s dead-ends and by-lanes. I am drawn to the narrative and representational problems that arise in encounters, such as those across species, that are at the edge of our experience and imagination.

In the Sawyer Seminar, I’m exploring two lines of inquiry: one is how we can expand our representational vocabularies (visual/writing) by attending to the reality of a multispecies world; the other is the potential of walking and water (although not walking on water!) — one as an embodied practice and the other as a varied (rain, sea, river) material (wet, liquid) and conceptual (fluid, tidal, unsettled, immersive) medium — to generate new histories, methodologies and conceptions of mobility.