Rethinking Wildlife: Philosophy, Biodiversity, Extinction - ARTS2244

Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

School: School of Humanities and Languages

Course Outline: School of Humanities & Languages

Campus: Sydney

Career: Undergraduate

Units of Credit: 6

EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)

Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 3

Enrolment Requirements:

Prerequisite: 30 units of credit at Level 1; or 24 units of credit and enrolment in a Philosophy minor in Arts/Law (4782)

CSS Contribution Charge: 2 (more info)

Tuition Fee: See Tuition Fee Schedule

Further Information: See Class Timetable

Available for General Education: Yes (more info)

View course information for previous years.


Subject Area: Environmental Humanities
This course can also be studied in the following specialisation: Philosophy

This course explores philosophical and political issues in wildlife conservation from a range of disciplinary perspectives. In particular, we will draw on the theoretical insights of environmental philosophy, anthropology, science and technology studies (STS) and the emerging field of ‘animal studies’. In doing so, we will explore questions like: what is ‘wild’ about wildlife, and does it matter? What is ‘biodiversity’, and how does this way of thinking about the environment structure conservation priorities and possibilities? What is ‘extinction’, and (why) should we be trying to prevent it?

These questions will be taken up through a range of key topics and case studies, including: the future of ‘urban wildlife’; the divide between native and introduced species; the role of gene banking and cloning in conserving and possibly resurrecting endangered species; and, the frequent conflicts between conservation priorities on the one hand and animal welfare or local people's autonomy and subsistence on the other.

This course will pay particular attention to the cultural, political and ethical dimensions of disappearing wildlife and attempts to conserve it. For example, we will consider some of the ways in which cultural ideas and values drive conservation priorities and determine outcomes, as well as how communities are variously exposed to the considerable risks of biodiversity loss which can impact on health, livelihoods and other cultural and religious goods. In a world in which biodiversity is primarily being lost through human action, understanding why communities interact with the environment in the ways they do, is of paramount importance.

At the same time, however, students will be required to develop a deep critical understanding of how conservation works as a discourse and a practice: why do we think about nature and conservation in the ways we do, might it be different and what would this mean? Who steers conservation priorities, and how? What is conserved (and at what cost, for whom)? Who owns biodiversity and its ‘genetic resources’, and with what impacts? Whose knowledge counts as legitimate in conservation discussions, and how is it made to do so?

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