Imagining and Representing Species Extinction

Bufo periglenes, the Golden Toad, was last recorded on May 15, 1989

Network Lead: Dr Stefan Skrimshire, University of Leeds

Imagining and representing species extinction – both currently witnessed and projected into the future, including human extinction – has become a powerful social and cultural discourse, the study of which is the domain of no single discipline. This network brings together researchers in environmental conservation, English literature, interactive media, management, philosophy and religious studies in order to contribute critically to the cross-disciplinary study of extinction in all its different biological forms and socio-cultural functions today.

Whilst historically extinction has evoked the disappearance of iconic species of animals and plants, it is just as likely to be discussed today in the context of macro-scale considerations of global ecological crisis and the interdependence of human and nonhuman life in an era of anthropogenic climate change. From reporting on climate tipping points (which include rapid biodiversity loss), suggestions that we are living in the ‘Anthropocene epoch’ and an associated ‘sixth mass extinction event’, to a recurrent ‘eco-apocalypse’ and ‘animal apocalypse’ theme in cinematic and literary narratives, the studies of human and non-human life have become radically intertwined. Greater input is thus urgently needed from arts and humanities to work alongside, as well as to critically engage with, the scientific discoveries and ethical imperatives of contemporary wildlife conservation studies. Alongside a concern with how and why we value and protect biodiversity, individual species and ecosystems, our network will pose questions that have been hampered by disciplinary boundaries. For example: in what sense is extinction a harm, and to what or whom? Why do people lament the loss of some species and not others? How do they communicate the significance of that loss at an individual and / or collective level? How do people connect the loss of nonhuman species with fears of human extinction?

The network unites scholars who are at different stages of their career (although extensive experience is provided across the team), offering an excellent opportunity for the study of extinction from different disciplinary perspectives.

Twitter: @ExtinctionNet

University Student Studentship Topic Principal Supervisor Co-Supervisor
Leeds Sophia Nicolov Last Whales: Extinction and the Contemporary Cetacean Imaginary Graham Huggan
School of English, University of Leeds
Callum Roberts
Environment Department, University of York
Sheffield Cecilia Tricker-Walsh Theories of loss in cultural representations of extinction Robert McKay
School of English, University of Sheffield
Stefan Skrimshire
School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds
York Rosamund Portus A World Without Bees? The role of our social and cultural imagination in responding to bee extinction Deborah Maxwell
Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York
Jill Atkins
School of Management, University of Sheffield