Drafts of all of the below papers have been completed and are awaiting publication. Please get in touch if you’d like to see any of them.
Evolution: Lessons from Some Cooperative Ravens
With Viciane Despret
Corvids cooperate. Whatever else they might do in the world – squabbling at carcasses or ‘stealing’ other birds’ eggs – they also posses rich social lives that include a broad range of cooperative interactions, from working together to mob predators and rear their young, to sharing food. This chapter focuses on some cooperative ravens (Corvus corax) and the scientists that study them to explore and challenge the simplistic notion that evolution teaches us that life, at some fundamental level, is inherently selfish and competitive. These ravens remind us that this simply isn’t the case. Or, more accurately, that it is only the case if we accept some very peculiar understandings of ‘selfishness’ that paper over the complexity of our living world. And yet stories about selfishness persist, in different ways, in both the scientific and the popular literatures. In this context, this chapter explores how these framings emerge and the rhetorical power that they possess. Ultimately, what emerges from taking these ravens seriously is a more hopeful account of evolution that opens up space for new kinds of animal studies scholarship that practice an appreciation for the many diverse ways that organism get on with each other to shape our living world.
(For Lynn Turner, Ron Broglio and Undine Sellbach (eds.) The Edinburgh Companion to Animal Studies, University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh, 2018)
Re-thinking the final frontier: Cosmo-logics and an ethic of interstellar flourishing
With Matthew Kearnes
In recent years a range of corporate and governmental entities have made increasingly strident moves towards the establishment of an off-Earth mining industry, often touting an imminent “gold rush in space”. For many proponents these proposals are thoroughly entangled with an even more ambitious set of possibilities for a new age of human history in space that will include the exploration and eventual colonisation of extra terrestrial environments. This article takes off-Earth mining as an entry point into this complex terrain, exploring the way in which problematically homogenous notions of ‘humanity’ and an empty ‘space’ are being deployed to do a kind of regulatory ethical work that simultaneously imposes and overcomes any limits to off-Earth expansion. In contrast to such an approach, this article aims to develop an ethics of interstellar flourishing grounded in an attentiveness to the consequential processes of worlding that are already linking up and remaking possibilities for everyone, both on and off-world.
(Forthcoming in GeoHumanities)
Banking the Forest: Loss, Hope and Care in Hawaiian Conservation
Hawai‘i is one of the extinction capitals of the world. Amongst a wide range of threatened taxa, the islands’ forest species – including many plants, birds and snails – have been particularly vulnerable to extinction. This paper weaves its way through three sites of intensive care for threatened species – a seed bank, a captive bird breeding centre and a snail ark – to explore some of the problems and possibilities of attempting to ‘bank’ biodiversity. What forms of hope animate these projects? What modes of loss do they imagine and perhaps stem? Ultimately, can Hawaii’s disappearing forests be banked, and at what cost. Taking up Eben Kirksey’s call for “modest forms of biocultural hope” and Maria Puig’s reflections on care as a grounded project that is simultaneously affective, ethical and practical, this paper explores the conservation possibilities of an understanding of hope as “care for the future”.
(For Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal (eds.) Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World, MIT Press, 2017)
Spectral Crows in Hawai’i: Conservation and the Work of Inheritance
As of 2002, the Hawaiian crow is extinct in the wild. The only remaining participants of the species are now required to live their lives in captivity, subjects of a long running conservation plan that aims to breed enough birds for eventual release. This paper takes as its focus the forests that these crows once inhabited, and might one day return to. In these places the absence of crows is profoundly felt. For example, there are now concerns that one or more plant species that previously relied on crows for seed dispersal may be at risk of extinction. Here, co-evolved affinities held in woody flesh become liabilities for those left behind. But in their absence crows continue to haunt and exert an influence on the forest in other ways too. While the legacies of their past presence are felt by some, the promise of their future return is also a powerful pressure on management policy. Spectral crows demand a regenerated forest understory and the exclusion of introduced pigs – which are seen by many as central to traditional Hawaiian hunting. This paper explores this complex multispecies landscape, asking what it might mean to inherit the past responsibility in a time of extinctions. Crows, people, pigs, trees and many others are tangled together here, at stake in each other. Paying attention to ghosts – to the missing presences, buried pasts and promised futures – that haunt landscapes like these is vital work for an informed conservation.
(For Deborah Rose, Thom van Dooren and Matthew Chrulew (eds.) Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death and Generations. Columbia University Press: New York, 2017.)
Telling Extinction Stories: An Introduction
With Deborah Bird Rose and Matthew Chrulew
Introduction to forthcoming edited collection: Deborah Rose, Thom van Dooren and Matthew Chrulew (eds.) Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death and Generations. Columbia University Press: New York, 2017.
(For Lori Gruen (ed.) Critical Terms in Animal Studies. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.)
Making Worlds with Crows: Philosophy in the Field
(For RCC Perspectives, special issue on “Care for Species”, 2016)