Webinar: Narrative, Biodiversity, and Multispecies Theory

Posted at September 7, 2017 | By : | Categories : News,Next,Other,Students,Webinars

Date and time: Sep 23 at 19:30-21:00 CEST


At the beginning of the third millennium, humankind is confronting a mass extinction of species of a kind that has only occurred five times before in the 3.5 billion years of life on Earth, and the first one triggered by humans. How can we represent so large an ecological crisis? What stories and images have writers, film-makers, artists, and game designers used to address it, and to what effect? What is biodiversity and why should we value it? How do scientists’ approaches to biodiversity differ from writers’ and film-makers’? Why do we pay more attention to some species than others? How do different media integrate numbers, text, and visual images to represent endangered and extinct species? What ethical and political implications come with such representations? The seminar will engage these questions in connection with concepts such as the Anthropocene, environmental justice, multispecies justice, cosmopolitanism, and eco-cosmopolitanism. We will particularly focus on different types of storytelling and engagements with biodiversity in different regions, languages, and cultures from the Americas and Europe to Asia and Australia, and across a broad range of disciplines, media, and art forms.

What stories, films or images have you found most powerful in the environmental engagement with biodiversity and its changes – endangerment, extinction, proliferation, native and non-native species, domestic and wild ones? What emotions do these stories or images seek to evoke?

What are some of the most successful examples, for you, of texts, music or films that seek to represent nonhuman voices and perspectives? What makes them successful, and what makes other representations fall short?

Climate change has eclipsed practically all other environmental issues as the movement’s dominant topic, at least in Western Europe and North America. How should we weigh and present the relative risks of biodiversity loss in relation to climate change and pervasive pollution? How do we avoid the dual risks of either piling on too many problems at a time or competing for people’s attention with each individual one?

Where do  you come down in the confrontation between cat lovers and bird conservationists that is described in Ch.4 of Imagining Extinction, and why?

One of the thorniest problems for environmentalists today is bringing together political action for social justice and advocacy on behalf of nonhuman species. In your view, what are the biggest obstacles in doing this? What are examples or models for solving them?


Bernaerts, Lars, Marco Caracciolo, Luc Herman, and Bart Vervaeck. “The Storied Lives of Non-human Narrators.” Narrative 22.1 (January 2014): 68-93.

Ursula K. Heise, Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Kirksey, Eben, Craig Schuetze, and Stefan Helmreich. “Introduction: Tactics of Multispecies Ethnography.” In The Multispecies Salon, edited by Eben Kirksey. Durham: Duke University Press. Kindle edition.

Van Dooren, Thom. 2014. Flight Ways: Life and Death at the Edge of Extinction. New York: Columbia University Press: Introduction and Chapter 3.

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