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Extinction Encounters: Vanishing Forms, Human Rights, and the Ethics of Retrieval

Image Thursday, October 30, 2008
Alexander Library, 4th Floor Teleconference Lecture Hall, CAC


The current “sixth mass extinction” has induced an unprecedented sense of environmental crisis and mobilized a variety of rescue technologies and policies. Yet the phenomenon of species extinction has long shaped the human imagination. Evidence suggests that fossils of extinct animals and first-hand witnessing of sole survivors may have inspired people’s religious beliefs, folklore, mythology, and taboos. In time emerged a Western discourse of extinction which mourned vanishing indigenous populations and inspired the practice of salvage ethnography.

Extinction discourse today cautions us of biodiversity loss, while a politics of identity motivates aboriginal and indigenous groups to resurrect dying languages and cultural traditions. This symposium addresses the parallel processes and collateral effects of biological and cultural extinction.  Taken together, the studies raise challenges to the conception of human rights in cases where cultural self-determination jeopardizes other species lives, and in cases where operations of species recovery impinge on certain human communities more than others.

Sponsored by:
* Department of Anthropology -
* Center for Genocide & Human Rights -

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