Call for Book Chapters: "Bearing Witness: Animal Loss in the Anthropocene"

According to scientific consensus, the Sixth Mass Extinction of non-human life forms is well under way, shaping collective futures with a promise of staggering biospheric collapse. We lose another species to extinction every 30 minutes and 70% of wildlife species have already been lost (Suzuki). When we speak or write of mass extinction as “event” in its irreducible plurality, a commitment to the reality of more-than-human animal loss under anthropocentric regimes demands bearing witness to these animal lives, not only through ethology, but also through storytelling and rituals of mourning. Indeed, because we humans are the direct cause of the extinction of most other living species, such testimony also includes questioning human ideologies and actions in order to gauge the depth of our responsibility. The annihilation of millions of our fellow animals also signals the death of myriad forms of communication and expression that constitute the earth’s rich semiotic systems, reducing the complex alterity of worlds to the foreseeable ruins of extractivist capitalism and its staggering devastation. What might be the effects of such radical impoverishment of our entangled life worlds? 

This volume seeks to contribute to the growing field of Extinction Studies in the environmental humanities by accepting the demand to bear witness to the significations of these losses, to enter the forbidding realms of absence and learn to mourn and pay tribute. These extinction events open paths to responsibility and accountability, but also to celebrations of life and ritual expressions of grief. This volume is also intended as a vehicle for thinking about the future of life on earth, and how apocalyptic tropes may be of assistance in imagining new ways of doing politics beyond the temporality of progress. What strategies of resistance could counter Anthropocene extinctions and interrupt the seeming inexorability of the “great unraveling”? Can we cultivate forms of empathy that privilege solidarity over competition and are capable of incorporating the perspectives of other thinking subjects into a shared “cosmopolitics”? What might a commitment to “justice” signify regarding our responsibilities and orientations to animals in light of Anthropogenic extinction? What are the types of legal and political transformations that are being proposed and adopted by those who have moved beyond anthropocentric regimes? Can we overcome alienation from our own embodied animal natures in order to develop a transformational ethics grounded in empathy and kinship? 

We are particularly interested in non-Western and indigenous contributions, which respond to one or several of the following issues: 

1. Animal genocide and ecocide; theory and praxis of criminalization of biospheric destruction; enlarging democratic and legal codes to include non-human others; role/s of indigeneity in expanding “rights” to non-human others. 

2. Ethical responsibility toward non-human animals (wild and/or domesticated) in light of mass extinction; theories of justice that respond to the plight of anthropogenic extinctions.

3. Storytelling: The role of the witness and testimony in pursuit of justice for animals; narratives of a specific species extinction or a particular animal and its effects; role/s of narrativity and specificity in confronting mass animal death. 

4. Coping with Anthropocene trauma and atrocities against animals; memorialization, ceremony, rituals of mourning and manifestations of (collective) grief. 

5. Religious responses to and/or framings of animal extinctions. 

6. Significance of shifting boundaries and permeability in animal-human relations; disrupting or replacing the nature/culture divide with nature-cultures (Uexkull’s umwelt); praxis and theory of kinship, communication, and sympathetic imagination in anthropology, philosophy and literature. 

7. Interventions to counter Anthropocene extinctions (rewilding, conservation, de-extinction projects, artificial biomes, de-growth, deep green revolutionary action, etc.). 8. Anthropocenic “apocalypticism;” questions of futurity and deep time in relation to the possibilities of earthly life; parallels and ruptures between apocalypse and catastrophe in light of imminent animal (possibly including human) extinctions. 

Deadline for Abstracts (250 words): 15 June, 2021 

Deadline for Chapters (6000-8000 words): 1 November, 2021

  • Arianne Conty, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, College of Arts and Science, American University of Sharjah, 26666 Sharjah, UAE,
  • Wendy Wiseman, Ph.D. Affiliate Faculty of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, California, 93106

This proposal is due on June 15th 2021.

Page last updated on May 18th 2021. All information correct at the time, but subject to change.