Extinction Studies (edited collection)

extinction-studies-cover-smallWe have now finalised the manuscript for our forthcoming edited collection, Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death and Generations (to be published by Columbia University Press, available in May 2017). More information on the collection is available on the Edited Collections page of my website.

The collection has already received glowing endorsements from several fantastic scholars:

Extinction Studies collects haunting and haunted stories, multi-voiced stories which echo together in a vibrant plea for an ethic of care, lucidity and obstinate, stammering hope. We need such stories to make us feel and think with the unravelling of a world we inherit and share together with innumerable entangled forms and ways of life. We need them also to repopulate our devastated imaginations, and to help us escape the twin easy temptations of nihilist despair and blind confidence.”
~ Isabelle Stengers, author of Cosmopolitics

“This extraordinary collection addresses one of the most sobering aspects of the current environmental crisis. The contributing scholars represent a range of disciplines, but rather than adhering to academic convention, they have all used narrative as the vehicle for their historical, ethnographic, zoological, meditative, and poetic insights. The result is both personal and scholarly, both illuminating and a pleasure to read.”
~ Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Human-caused extinction challenges our own survival—but also our compassion and our ability to tell stories adequate to shifting configurations of us and them. This volume gathers seven fine storytellers who show us what it means to lose or save another animal species in an era of rapid extinctions. These are tales of passion, time, conflict, learning, slaughter, imprisonment, and prayer. Drawing upon their common membership in a interdisciplinary and international working group on “extinction studies,” the authors show the potential of the environmental humanities to address one of the major crises of our moment in history.”
~ Anna Tsing, University of California, Santa Cruz

Extinction Studies makes an important contribution to human-animal studies and the environmental humanities as the volume explores what extinctions and recoveries of endangered animal species mean in different cultural contexts. These perceptive and wide-ranging essays focus on the narrative and philosophical frameworks that turn the ecological reduction of bio-abundance and biodiversity into sources of reflection about human and more-than-human ways of life as they unfold across generations and evolutionary ages. These analyses and meditations acknowledge both that animals can never be fully assimilated to human understanding, and that human stories play a crucial role in shaping the bonds with animals that take multispecies communities into a future of danger, but also of hope and exuberance.”
~ Ursula K. Heise, Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

“Emerging from the rich interdisciplinary work of the Extinction Studies Group, this important book focuses on particular critters, people, and places to ask in depth how the biocultural processes of extinction take shape, and who bears the burdens. This book insists on listening attentively to stories in the biologies as well as in the (more than) human sciences. The book develops in rich specificity what “entangled significance” means in an area prone to phrases like “mass extinction event,” which unravel into abstract accounts that are at once too big and too small to hold the fleshly meanings and processes of actual collective death. Ethical understanding emerges not from first principles but from inhabiting living and dying on the edges and ledges of extinction for particular beings and kinds of beings. “Specific disappearing” and “multiply-storied” worlds are the themes, and they are searingly urgent.”
~ Donna Haraway, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California at Santa Cruz

“The studies contained in this volume cross species and kingdom boundaries, and are full of hope just as much as grief and mourning. In bearing witness to the lives of species that are functionally and/or already extinct, the authors present multiple modes of response and responsibility for those of us who remain.”
~ Brett Buchanan, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the School of the Environment at Laurentian University

The fantastic team at Columbia University Press have designed a cover that uses a section of a beautiful art work by Isabella Kirkland called “Gone,” part of her Taxa series. Painted in 2004, as Isabella describes it, “The sixty-three species depicted in Gone have all become extinct since the 1700s and the colonization of the New World.” You can see the image in full and get a key for the species represented here. You’ve really got to visit the site and zoom in to get a sense of the incredible detail of the piece.

Published by

Thom van Dooren

Field philosopher and storyteller. Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia.