Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species

University of Chicago Press
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We are currently facing the sixth mass extinction of species in the history of life on Earth, biologists claim—the first one caused by humans. Activists, filmmakers, writers, and artists are seeking to bring the crisis to the public’s attention through stories and images that use the strategies of elegy, tragedy, epic, and even comedy. Imagining Extinction is the first book to examine the cultural frameworks shaping these narratives and images.

Ursula K. Heise argues that understanding these stories and symbols is indispensable for any effective advocacy on behalf of endangered species. More than that, she shows how biodiversity conservation, even and especially in its scientific and legal dimensions, is shaped by cultural assumptions about what is valuable in nature and what is not. These assumptions are hardwired into even seemingly neutral tools such as biodiversity databases and laws for the protection of endangered species. Heise shows that the conflicts and convergences of biodiversity conservation with animal welfare advocacy, environmental justice, and discussions about the Anthropocene open up a new vision of multispecies justice. Ultimately, Imagining Extinction demonstrates that biodiversity, endangered species, and extinction are not only scientific questions but issues of histories, cultures, and values.
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About the author

Ursula K. Heise is the Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies in the Department of English and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her books include Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism and Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Aug 10, 2016
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9780226358338
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Modern / 21st Century
Nature / Endangered Species
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Sense of Place and Sense of Planet analyzes the relationship between the imagination of the global and the ethical commitment to the local in environmentalist thought and writing from the 1960s to the present. Part One critically examines the emphasis on local identities and communities in North American environmentalism by establishing conceptual connections between environmentalism and ecocriticism, on one hand, and theories of globalization, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, on the other. It proposes the concept of "eco-cosmopolitanism" as a shorthand for envisioning these connections and the cultural and aesthetic forms into which they translate. Part Two focuses on conceptualizations of environmental danger and connects environmentalist and ecocritical thought with the interdisciplinary field of risk theory in the social sciences, arguing that environmental justice theory and ecocriticism stand to benefit from closer consideration of the theories of cosmopolitanism that have arisen in this field from the analysis of transnational communities at risk. Both parts of the book combine in-depth theoretical discussion with detailed analyses of novels, poems, films, computer software and installation artworks from the US and abroad that translate new connections between global, national and local forms of awareness into innovative aesthetic forms combining allegory, epic, and views of the planet as a whole with modernist and postmodernist strategies of fragmentation, montage, collage, and zooming.
It’s December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again.

As he re-creates these extraordinary events, John Vaillant gives us an unforgettable portrait of this spectacularly beautiful and mysterious region. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshipped and lived alongside tigers, even sharing their kills with them. We witness the arrival of Russian settlers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, soldiers and hunters who greatly diminished the tiger populations. And we come to know their descendants, who, crushed by poverty, have turned to poaching and further upset the natural balance of the region.

This ancient, tenuous relationship between man and predator is at the very heart of this remarkable book. Throughout we encounter surprising theories of how humans and tigers may have evolved to coexist, how we may have developed as scavengers rather than hunters, and how early Homo sapiens may have fit seamlessly into the tiger’s ecosystem. Above all, we come to understand the endangered Siberian tiger, a highly intelligent super-predator that can grow to ten feet long, weigh more than six hundred pounds, and range daily over vast territories of forest and mountain.

Beautifully written and deeply informative, The Tiger circles around three main characters: Vladimir Markov, a poacher killed by the tiger; Yuri Trush, the lead tracker; and the tiger himself. It is an absolutely gripping tale of man and nature that leads inexorably to a final showdown in a clearing deep in the taiga.


From the Hardcover edition.
Sense of Place and Sense of Planet analyzes the relationship between the imagination of the global and the ethical commitment to the local in environmentalist thought and writing from the 1960s to the present. Part One critically examines the emphasis on local identities and communities in North American environmentalism by establishing conceptual connections between environmentalism and ecocriticism, on one hand, and theories of globalization, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, on the other. It proposes the concept of "eco-cosmopolitanism" as a shorthand for envisioning these connections and the cultural and aesthetic forms into which they translate. Part Two focuses on conceptualizations of environmental danger and connects environmentalist and ecocritical thought with the interdisciplinary field of risk theory in the social sciences, arguing that environmental justice theory and ecocriticism stand to benefit from closer consideration of the theories of cosmopolitanism that have arisen in this field from the analysis of transnational communities at risk. Both parts of the book combine in-depth theoretical discussion with detailed analyses of novels, poems, films, computer software and installation artworks from the US and abroad that translate new connections between global, national and local forms of awareness into innovative aesthetic forms combining allegory, epic, and views of the planet as a whole with modernist and postmodernist strategies of fragmentation, montage, collage, and zooming.
Sense of Place and Sense of Planet analyzes the relationship between the imagination of the global and the ethical commitment to the local in environmentalist thought and writing from the 1960s to the present. Part One critically examines the emphasis on local identities and communities in North American environmentalism by establishing conceptual connections between environmentalism and ecocriticism, on one hand, and theories of globalization, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, on the other. It proposes the concept of "eco-cosmopolitanism" as a shorthand for envisioning these connections and the cultural and aesthetic forms into which they translate. Part Two focuses on conceptualizations of environmental danger and connects environmentalist and ecocritical thought with the interdisciplinary field of risk theory in the social sciences, arguing that environmental justice theory and ecocriticism stand to benefit from closer consideration of the theories of cosmopolitanism that have arisen in this field from the analysis of transnational communities at risk. Both parts of the book combine in-depth theoretical discussion with detailed analyses of novels, poems, films, computer software and installation artworks from the US and abroad that translate new connections between global, national and local forms of awareness into innovative aesthetic forms combining allegory, epic, and views of the planet as a whole with modernist and postmodernist strategies of fragmentation, montage, collage, and zooming.
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