Extinction Narratives

We are currently living through the sixth mass extinction of species on planet Earth. As humans have become aware of the extinction or imminent end of non-human animal species over the last two hundred years, there have been active attempts to understand the loss. The historical events of specific extinctions have often been narrated into a coherent story for the viewer/reader/listener, whether recounted in a popular science book, an artistic display, or a natural history museum case. Each of these acts of remembering extinction can be thought of as an act that reanimates the lost species and re-enacts the actions that brought about its death.

In this stream, we offer four parts: two traditional paper panel sessions, a discussion-based roundtable, and a film showing (Rob Nugent’s Night Parrot Stories). Together, the stream of sessions investigates how the choice of narrative to tell the story of extinction is a choice that highlights some historical actions and obscures others. We will ‘read’ spaces, artefacts, and texts from various settings to determine how these narratives have been structured, what elements of the extinction context have been included and excluded, what value judgements have been made, and what choices have been made in the framing. We can also investigate how narrative choices end up framing the extinction through different emotions, particularly guilt, grief, and anger. Rethinking where we have been and where we currently are in our relationship to the non-human requires considering narrative strategies that have the power to shape how extinction is conceptualised.

Stream organisers: Dolly Jørgensen and Anna-Katharina Laboissière.