Skip over navigation
Share this:

Events - Daily

<<  April 24, 2014   >>
Thursday, April 24
“From Ark to Narrative, Database, and Endangered Species”, Ursula Heise
Ursula Heise, Professor of English, UCLA

The current mass extinction of species has generated an abundance of books, photographs, paintings, documentaries, and websites about individual endangered species and the global panorama of biodiversity loss. My presentation will focus on a related expression of concern over endangered species, global biodiversity databases that have been created on the Internet over the last 25 years, to argue that they should be considered as a form of contemporary nature writing, specifically as a kind of ecological epic. Drawing on the digital humanities and the work of media theorists and historians of science, the talk will analyze the interplay of narrative and catalogue in these databases: in the justifications for their creation, in the structure of their metadata, in the taxa of organisms that receive preferential coverage, and in the entries on particular species. It will focus in particular on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, one of the most frequently used databases in global conservation efforts. The Red List is indebted to elegiac narrative and to tragedy, but it also reaches beyond the usual environmental narrative of the decline of nature to inventory the entirety of biological life on Earth in a genuinely encyclopedic project. At the same time, the "database aesthetic" of enumerating endangered species has made its way back into fiction, photography, and painting, transforming the way writers and artists seek to express a sense of global ecological crisis.
East Pyne, Room 10  ·  4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m.