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imagining extinction: the cultural meanings of endangered species

University of Chicago Press: 2016.

We are currently facing what some biologists call the sixth mass extinction of species in the history of life on Earth – the first one caused by humans.  Imagining Extinction focuses on the stories, images, lists and laws that have expressed collective concern over endangered species in different communities around the world over the last half-century. The analysis of  elegy, tragedy, catalog, epic and, occasionally, comedy as genres that shape biodiversity debates  shows in what ways species conservation is at its core a cultural rather than a scientific concern: a way of remembering the past and protesting the present. Through its conflicts and confluences with animal welfare advocacy, environmental justice, and discussions about the Anthropocene and eco-cosmopolitanism, biodiversity conservation can usefully be rethought as multispecies justice, an ambitious attempt to respond to the claim of other humans as well as other species on our moral consideration in a context of social, cultural and political diversity.

Reviews & Discussion:

Clint Wilson III: “Saving Species, Saving the Humanities: Ursula K. Heise’s Imagining Extinction
Faini Cetti: EcoHumanities Website
Chris Carlsson: “Nature is trying to kill me!”


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Kane Lecture: “Narrative and Multispecies Justice.” Department of English, Ohio State University, Columbus. 7 March 2017, 4:00-6:00pm, Denney 311.

Talk and Discussion: “Where the Wild Things Used To Be: Narrative, Dystopia, and Biodiversity.” Thresholds: Biodiversity, Climate, and Humanity at a Crossroads. New York Botanical Garden, Ross Lecture Hall, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx NY 10458. 9 March 2017, 10:00am-12:30pm.

Discussion: “What Counts As Human?” With Christopher Fynsk and Illah Nourbaksh. Strange Times: Earth in the Age of the Human. Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, 4400 Forbes Ave., Warhol Theater. 10 March 2017, 7pm.

“Narrative Cities and Ecological Actants.” Panel on “Narrative Settings and Its Ecocritical Reconceptualizations. With Nancy Easterlin, Erin James, and Alexa Weik. ASLE Biannual Convention. Wayne State University, Detroit, June 20-24, 2017.

Keynote. “Title TBA.” Other Globes: Past and Peripheral Imaginations of the Global. Universiteit van Amsterdam: Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies. 4-5 July 2017.

“Nonhuman Narratology and the Concept of the Actant.” Seminar on “The Non-Human in World Literature.” ACLA Annual Convention. Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands. 6-9 July 2017.

Keynote. “Title TBA.” Literary Environments: Place, Planet and Translation. Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Literature. Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Queensland, Australia. 17-19 July 2017.