[SydPhil] Seminar at UOW - Tues 7 May

David Neil dneil at uow.edu.au
Fri May 3 12:45:27 AEST 2013

Thom Van Dooren
Environmental Humanities Program, UNSW

A Day with Crows: Rarity, nativity and the violent-care of conservation

Tuesday 7 May 4:30 p.m.

University of Wollongong, Building 19, Room 1064
Map: http://www.uow.edu.au/about/campusmap/index.html
(enquiries: David Neil - dneil at uow.edu.au<mailto:dneil at uow.edu.au>)

For more than a decade now the raucous calls of the 'alalā, or Hawaiian crow, have been missing from the forests of Hawaii’s Big Island. Driven to extinction in the wild, these birds can now only be found in a small captive population that is maintained by the care of a dedicated team of staff. This paper explores the intimate daily care provided to these captive birds, care that is animated by hopes that they might one day be restored to the wider world. But care is not without its costs. As it is practiced in contemporary conservation, care is inextricably entangled with practices of ongoing violence. In this context, this paper focuses on the plight of the 'alalā to explore the way in which endangered species conservation – in Hawai’i, but also to some extent in the US and around the world – teaches us to value living beings, as well as how these values take form to shape decision making about which animals are cared for, but also about those that can, or must, be killed in the name of conservation. At the heart of this paper is the notion that conservation is grounded in a very particular ‘regime of violent-care’ that operates with reference to two key criteria: rarity and nativity. The final section of the paper considers the potential future release of captive 'alalā to explore some sites of contestation over how we ought to live with and kill animals. Of central importance here is current and possible future opposition to 'alalā conservation from hunters and animal welfare activists, concerned with the future of pigs and cats in the landscape. In these contestations, I argue, we can see the intersections of competing regimes of violent-care, each proposing that different values and criteria ought to structure decision making about who lives, who dies and for whose sake.

Thom van Dooren is co-convener of the Environmental Humanities Program at the University of New South Wales and co-editor of the journal Environmental Humanities. His research focuses on ethical and philosophical issues in the context of species extinction, a topic explored in detail in Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Columbia University Press, 2014). Email: t.van.dooren at unsw.edu.au<mailto:t.van.dooren at unsw.edu.au>
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