We live in an era marked by an accelerating rate of species death, but since the early days of the discipline, anthropology has contemplated the death of languages, cultural groups, and ways of life. The essays in this collection examine processes of—and our understanding of—extinction across various domains. The contributors argue that extinction events can be catalysts for new cultural, social, environmental, and technological developments—that extinction processes can, paradoxically, be productive as well as destructive. The essays consider a number of widely publicized cases: island species in the Galápagos and Madagascar; the death of Native American languages; ethnic minorities under pressure to assimilate in China; cloning as a form of species regeneration; and the tiny hominid Homo floresiensis fossils ("hobbits") recently identified in Indonesia. The Anthropology of Extinction offers compelling explorations of issues of widespread concern.
About the authors
Bernard C. Perley is an associate professor and director of the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia.
Gregory Forth is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
If extinctions are seen as unfamiliar, faraway events, we often fail to think about them, let alone take conscious action to prevent them. Future studies in extinction discourse will do well to further interrogate the relationship between extinctions in 'local' and 'foreign' contexts, while interrogating the assumptions that undergird these very designations. A valuable step in this direction, The Anthropology of Extinction gives us the tools we need to bring us closer to the discomfiting, disorienting, destabilizing real.
The Anthropology of Extinction offers compelling explorations of issues of widespread concern.
The Birdbooker Report
In an age of academic interdisciplinarity, it is often worth reading well outside the confines of one's discipline, for one can find valuable and unexpected insights. This volume of essays explores the connections, similarities, and sometimes interactions between biological and cultural extinctions. It emphasizes the nuances of language used to define extinctions and pending extinctions, drawing on each of the main sub-fields of anthropology. Genese Marie Sodikoff, the volume's editor, has drawn together an eclectic group of authors, resulting in a very loose-knit set of ideas, but a set that provocatively makes one think about extinction in novel ways.