Worlds of Meaning in Conservation
This environmental humanities collaboratory aims to start cross-disciplinary conversations to understand, attend to and imagine how the overlapping worlds of meaning crafted by diverse humans and nonhumans may create new possibilities not just for survival, but for genuine multispecies coexistence and flourishing in the Sixth Extinction.
Photo: Puffin on the lookout, Runde bird sanctuary, South Norway. Credits: Ageliki Lefkaditou
Species are disappearing today more rapidly than at any other point in human history, ushering in what many are now referring to as the planet’s sixth mass extinction event. Since the birth of the modern conservation movement and the field of conservation biology in the second half of the 20th century, proposed solutions to the crisis of extinction have predominantly been grounded in particular kinds of scientific and technical expertise. As has been frequently noted, these scientific approaches have often overlooked or failed to deal adequately with the cultural complexity and livelihoods of local communities. At the same time, the rich perceptual and experiential lives of other species have also been backgrounded, leading to growing calls to develop a more meaningful dialogue between animal behavioural research and conservation practice.
At the heart of this environmental humanities collaboratory is the aim to address these blind spots by opening these largely science-centred debates up to conversations amongst scholars working across the arts, humanities and social sciences. It will bring together approaches in the environmental humanities, political ecology, anthropology, and philosophy that address the injustices of exclusionary conservation projects and the varied appropriation of, and disregard for, Indigenous knowledges with recent perspectives on more-than-human lifeworlds from wildlife filmmaking, multispecies studies, philosophical ethology, ethno-ethology and more.
The Collaboratory will meet twice a semester (once per quarter) for an afternoon of joint readings, presentations of ongoing and future research, and open discussions about different dimensions of meaning making involved in conservation from diverse disciplinary perspectives. The aims of these meetings are the formation of a network of scholars committed to interdisciplinarity and to common concerns. Once per semester the collaboratory will host an exciting guest lecture on meaning making and conservation.