Perspectives on Conservation Humanities

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Transdisciplinary Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2023) | Viewed by 11205

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
School of English, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Interests: postcolonial literary/cultural studies; environmental humanities; animal studies; tourism studies/travel writing; contemporary film

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Broadly defined, conservation humanities is an emerging paradigm that exists within the larger multi- and interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities, and which aims at using humanities-based methods—textual and discourse analysis, philosophical and historical inquiry, ethnographic fieldwork—to shed light on contemporary conservation issues and problems, paramount among them being today’s alarmingly intensifying levels of biodiversity loss. Defining conservation humanities as a paradigm rather than a field is not just a reflection on the fact that its academic status has yet to be fully established. It also suggests that its main value, at least at this preliminary stage, lies in conceptualizing conservation problems rather than in seeking the kinds of direct evidence that might help to solve them, and indeed it shares environmental humanities’ general suspicion towards top-down, solution-driven approaches that fail to take account of local ecological knowledge or confront conspicuously unequal distributions of wealth. However, the task of conservation humanities is not limited to exploring ongoing conservation issues from a wide range of cross-disciplinary humanities perspectives; it also asks questions about the changing meanings and functions of conservation and the humanities themselves. This Special Issue, the first dedicated to its subject, will ask what role the humanities can play in addressing historical conservation issues, and what humanities scholars can add to contemporary conservation debates.

Prof. Dr. Graham Huggan
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • humanities
  • conservation
  • interdisciplinarity
  • environment
  • ecology
  • biodiversity

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

16 pages, 897 KiB  
Article
Ghosts of the Techno-Fix Ocean? A Short History of Periphylla periphylla in the Norwegian Fjords
by Tirza Meyer
Humanities 2024, 13(2), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13020044 - 04 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1016
Abstract
In 1980, reports of deep-sea jellyfish blooms in Norwegian fjords led researchers to investigate the problem. The helmet jellyfish, Periphylla periphylla, has since migrated far north into Arctic waters. This paper examines what happened when the jellyfish blooms were noticed in 1980 [...] Read more.
In 1980, reports of deep-sea jellyfish blooms in Norwegian fjords led researchers to investigate the problem. The helmet jellyfish, Periphylla periphylla, has since migrated far north into Arctic waters. This paper examines what happened when the jellyfish blooms were noticed in 1980 from a historical and ethnographic perspective. It traces four research projects and business ideas that proposed solutions to the jellyfish problem and asks how they are representative of the ways in which humans meet the challenges of anthropogenic climate change. The paper concludes that the jellyfish problem was met with a “techno-fix” attitude that sought to “turn a problem into a resource”, which eventually leads to what Julia Livingston has termed “self-devouring growth”. In a final outlook, the article asks how we can engage with questions of conservation from a humanities perspective and concludes that the jellyfish story can help us to ask questions about “conservation for whom”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Conservation Humanities)
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13 pages, 364 KiB  
Article
Conservation Humanities and Multispecies Justice
by Ursula K. Heise
Humanities 2024, 13(2), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13020043 - 01 Mar 2024
Viewed by 976
Abstract
This article argues that biodiversity conservation is primarily a social and cultural issue and only secondarily a scientific one. It explains the proxy logic of narratives about endangered species, which typically serve as proxies for community identities and the changes communities have undergone [...] Read more.
This article argues that biodiversity conservation is primarily a social and cultural issue and only secondarily a scientific one. It explains the proxy logic of narratives about endangered species, which typically serve as proxies for community identities and the changes communities have undergone through processes of modernization and colonization. Polar bears, whose endangerment is interpreted differently by North American and European audiences, on the one hand, and by Inuit communities, on the other, serve as an example of how endangered species narratives not only involve culture but also, more specifically, issues of multispecies justice. Conservation humanities needs to engage with the two central problems that multispecies justice has identified and grappled with: conflicts between the interests of disadvantaged human communities and nonhuman species and conflicts and trade-offs between the interests of different nonhuman species. The essay argues that adopting the framework of “multispecies justice” rather than “conservation” will help to overcome some of the impasses of interdisciplinary collaboration in environmental studies in the past. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Conservation Humanities)
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19 pages, 1178 KiB  
Article
The Species at Risk Act (2002) and Transboundary Species Listings along the US–Canada Border
by Sarah Raymond, Sarah E. Perkins and Greg Garrard
Humanities 2024, 13(1), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13010038 - 14 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1778
Abstract
This paper is a collaborative interdisciplinary examination of the scientific, political, and cultural determinants of the conservation status of mammal species that occur in both Canada and the USA. We read Canada’s Species at Risk Act as a document of bio-cultural nationalism circumscribed [...] Read more.
This paper is a collaborative interdisciplinary examination of the scientific, political, and cultural determinants of the conservation status of mammal species that occur in both Canada and the USA. We read Canada’s Species at Risk Act as a document of bio-cultural nationalism circumscribed by the weak federalism and Crown–Indigenous relations of the nation’s constitution. We also provide a numerical comparison of at-risk species listings either side of the US–Canada border and examples of provincial/state listings in comparison with those at a federal level. We find 17 mammal species listed as at-risk in Canada as distinct from the USA, and only 6 transboundary species that have comparable levels of protection in both countries, and we consider several explanations for this asymmetry. We evaluate the concept of ‘jurisdictional rarity’, in which species are endangered only because a geopolitical boundary isolates a small population. The paper begins and ends with reflections on interdisciplinary collaboration, and our findings highlight the importance of considering and explicitly acknowledging political influences on science and conservation-decision making, including in the context of at-risk-species protection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Conservation Humanities)
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22 pages, 58244 KiB  
Article
Entangled Plumwoods: Stewardship as Grassroots Conservation Humanities
by Natasha Fijn
Humanities 2024, 13(1), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13010037 - 08 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1217
Abstract
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland and accompanying biodiversity were lost over a few short weeks during the Black Summer fires of 2019–2020 along the east coast of Australia. On the night of 19 December 2019, fire swept up the escarpment from [...] Read more.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland and accompanying biodiversity were lost over a few short weeks during the Black Summer fires of 2019–2020 along the east coast of Australia. On the night of 19 December 2019, fire swept up the escarpment from the coast, slowed down with the thick understory of temperate rainforest and burnt through the lower dry sclerophyll forest on Plumwood Mountain. The aftermath of the bare, burnt landscape meant a significant change in the structure and diversity of vegetation, while the consequences of the fire also brought about fundamental changes to Plumwood as a conservation and heritage organisation. Plumwood Mountain as a place, the individual plumwood tree as an agentive being, Val Plumwood as a person and Plumwood as an organisation are all an entangled form of natureculture and indicative of a practice-based conservation humanities approach. Conservation as part of the environmental humanities can offer an alternative to mainstream models of conservation with the potential to instigate active participation on the ground, engaging in a different form of stewardship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Conservation Humanities)
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16 pages, 327 KiB  
Article
Worlds of Meaning at the Edge of Extinction: Conservation Behaviour and the Environmental Humanities
by Thom van Dooren
Humanities 2023, 12(5), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12050122 - 17 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1751
Abstract
We are living in the midst of a period of mass extinction. All around us, diverse species of animals and plants are disappearing, often largely unnoticed. However, this is also a period in which, on a daily basis, new and fascinating insights into [...] Read more.
We are living in the midst of a period of mass extinction. All around us, diverse species of animals and plants are disappearing, often largely unnoticed. However, this is also a period in which, on a daily basis, new and fascinating insights into animal life are emerging as we come to appreciate more about their remarkable perceptual, cognitive, social, and emotional lives. This article explores this strange juxtaposition of loss and knowledge-making and the many challenges and possibilities that it gives rise to. It focuses on the emerging field of Conservation Behaviour in which researchers are seeking to modify or manipulate animal behaviours to achieve conservation outcomes: for example, teaching lizards not to eat toxic prey, or birds to utilise a safer migratory route. The article seeks to bring this approach to conservation into dialogue with work in environmental humanities, including the emerging paradigm of conservation humanities. The article outlines an interdisciplinary environmental humanities approach to conservation behaviour, grounded in work in multispecies studies and philosophical ethology. It then explores four broad thematic areas—agency, identity, ethics, and loss—in which the dialogue between these two fields might prove to be particularly, and mutually, enriching. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Conservation Humanities)
24 pages, 402 KiB  
Article
Conserving Africa’s Eden? Green Colonialism, Neoliberal Capitalism, and Sustainable Development in Congo Basin Literature
by Kenneth Toah Nsah
Humanities 2023, 12(3), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12030038 - 08 May 2023
Viewed by 3182
Abstract
Starting with European colonization, African natural resources in particular and nature in general have been coveted and exploited mainly in the interest of Euro-American industrialized countries, with China as a recent major player from Asia. Interestingly, the incessant quest by some Western NGOs, [...] Read more.
Starting with European colonization, African natural resources in particular and nature in general have been coveted and exploited mainly in the interest of Euro-American industrialized countries, with China as a recent major player from Asia. Interestingly, the incessant quest by some Western NGOs, institutions, and governments to protect and conserve African nature not only are inspired by ecological and climatic concerns but also often tend to propagate a false image of Africa as the last Eden of the earth in order to control Africa’s resources. Using literary texts, this article argues that some Euro-American transnational NGOs and some of their governments sometimes conspire with some African governments to spread global capitalism and green colonialism under the pretext of oxymoronic sustainable development as they attempt to conserve a mythical African Eden. Utilizing three novels and one play from the Congo Basin, namely In Koli Jean Bofane’s Congo Inc.: Le Testament de Bismarck (2014), Assitou Ndinga’s Les Marchands du développement durable (2006), Étienne Goyémidé’s Le Silence de la forêt ([1984] 2015), and Ekpe Inyang’s The Last Hope (2011), I contend that such Euro-American environmental NGOs and their governments sometimes impose and sustain fortress conservation (creation of protected areas) in the Congo Basin as a hidden means of coopting Africa’s nature and Africans into neoliberal capitalism. For the most part, instead of protecting the Congo Basin, green colonialists and developmentalists sell sustainable development, undermine alternative ways of achieving human happiness, and perpetuate epistemicide, thus leading to poverty and generating resentment among local and indigenous populations. As these literary texts suggest, nature conservation and sustainable development in the Congo Basin should not be imposed upon from the outside; they should emanate from Africans, tapping into local expertise, and indigenous and other knowledge systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Conservation Humanities)
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