Posted by: nucleargal | November 1, 2010

Call for Papers: Endangerment and Its Consequences


The notion of endangerment stands at the heart of a network of concepts, values and practices dealing with a vast range of entities threatened by disappearance – from objects to organisms, to individual and collective identities, as well as to the durably material and fugitively psychological dimensions of entire cultures. Endangerment-thinking is bound up with devices, such as archives, catalogs or databases, aimed at preserving them or their traces. It thus opens the way for examining the construction of data deemed significant, the kind of knowledge such data constitutes, the structures into which it is organized, the affects that permeate it, and the moral and epistemic values it incarnates. Protecting the endangered and memorializing the extinct assume that the objects to be safeguarded or remembered are valuable; these are often associated with a supposedly natural or original state, sometimes, too with a condition of primeval authenticity. Architectural patrimony conserved in photographs, extinguished species in museum displays, or dead dialects in recordings nurture nostalgia for a more diverse world, and may give rise to resuscitation fantasies; together with dramatized depictions of imperiled places and organisms, they dynamize tensions between risk and heritage, and acquire political valence inside and outside science.

The workshop aims at exploring the history and cultures of endangerment and its consequences in a broad geographical and chronological scope. Case studies combined with methodological and theoretical reflection may be the approach best adapted for that purpose. We shall pursue such questions as:

• How have traces or remnants been legitimized as representatives of extinct objects?
• What concepts, technologies, and social forms have made it possible to interpret a taxidermized body as a “species,” or a grammar and a dictionary as a “language”?
• When and in what contexts did the notion of endangerment” emerge, and how can we periodize the discourse of endangerment?
• What is the relation between the imagined past of an object threatened with extinction and the imagined futures in which its preservation will be valued?
• Which affects and values animate the sciences of endangerment, and how do they contribute to give shape to modes of knowledge-production?

Please send a 500-word proposal by 15 February 2010 to Fernando Vidal,

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science will cover travel and accommodation.

The workshop is organized in the framework of the project “The Sciences of the Archives,”


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