Exploratory Seminar with the Harvard-Radcliffe Institute
Co-Seminar Leader with Alexander Rehding
“In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches”
How do we account for what is no longer there? This exploratory seminar proposes an interdisciplinary reckoning with the apocalypse of extinction. “Extinction” here is meant in the most capacious sense: species extinction, mass extinction, human extinction, language extinction, and the like. What sorts of interventions have been successful in the fight to stave off extinction? To what degree can people be compelled to care about something that is no longer there? How can we teach each new generation to care about what is, for us, a post apocalypse, and is, for them, the new normal? How do we reconcile the paradox of being both the source and the destination of the asteroid of the Anthropocene?
Something more than death has happened, or, rather, a different kind of death. There is no survivor, there is no future, there is no life to be created in this form again. We are looking upon the uttermost finality which can be written, glimpsing the darkness which will not know another ray of light. We are in touch with the reality of extinction.
When an unbroken thread of hundreds of millions of years of mutation, experiment, adaptation, and chance is suddenly—snipped, what is lost is more than an individual, but rather, an entire genetic Library of Alexandria. Species need obituaries for the same reason we need tombstones for members of our family. We need them to mourn. We need them to remember. We need obituaries—extinctuaries—to fill this void. By interviewing the biologists of all sorts who study extinct, recently extinct, or soon-to-be extinct, The Extinctuary aims to monumentalize what is no longer there.
Co-Seminar Leader with Giovanni Bazzana
The end of the world may not be as distant as it once seemed. Some have gone so far as to claim that the apocalypse has already happened—we just haven’t noticed it yet. These apocalyptic anxieties are nothing new, yet they have assumed a newfound urgency in recent years. For scholars, critics, artists, and practitioners working across the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences— including literary and critical theory, theology, cultural and environmental history, climate science, geology, biology, and cosmology, among others—the future is, astoundingly, now. This renewed interest in the end time raises several questions: Just how much future is there? When and where does the future end? And how does that measurement shape our actions in the present? How do speculative temporalities form or constrain current ethical practices? What does it mean to be a good citizen of the future? What obligations do we bear to communities situated on the horizon of time? What are the normative claims of futurity? To approach these questions and conundrums, we propose a Radcliffe Exploratory Seminar to gather some of the world’s most dynamic theorists, artists, writers, and scholars currently grappling with the ever more imminent end-to-things.