Where the Wild Things Are

A/Prof. Wendy Steele1, Dr Ilan Wiesel2, Dr Cecily Maller1

1Centre for Urban Research, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia,

2School of Geography, Melbourne, Australia


In this paper we engage the twin concepts of ‘the stray’ and ‘the friend’ for developing empathetic imaginings and ethical practices in the city. We build on a politics of care for all species (human and non-human), and Lori Gruen’s (2015) notion of ‘entangled empathy’ to develop a trans-species ethic and mode of enquiry for cities. Critical theory, frameworks and methods challenge anthropocentrism and encourage us to leap into the unknown by shifting the boundaries used to define the anthropos and homo urbanis. This is about changing the basic unit of reference of what counts to be human, but also moving beyond the centrality of humans as the defining reference point for ethical action. We outline the benefits of an assemblage-method approach around diagramming and sketching as a pathway for developing trans-species ethics and empathy in cities. In this way new urban possibilities might be able to emerge; grounded in new stories; and ushering in new, more caring worlds.


Wendy Steele is an Associate professor in Sustainability and Urban Planning co-located in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, Melbourne.



The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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