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6 - Animals and Extinction

from Part II - Current Issues in Climate Change Criticism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2022

Adeline Johns-Putra
Affiliation:
Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
Kelly Sultzbach
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
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Summary

This chapter examines contemporary novels that grapple with species extinctions, including our own. The ‘zoo cli-fi’ here includes literature that does not necessarily mourn ‘our’ extinction, and may wean us off the idea that we are central to planetary survival. Zoo cli-fi that follows the broader ‘animal turn’ attributes greater significance to animals as beings-in-themselves and illustrates a powerful ‘point of view’ often missing: animals have their own ‘point of view’ that may or may not include ‘us’. The word extinction is taxonomic, working at the scale of population, and describes a condition of species death rather than the conditions under which death comes about. The distinction is important in a political and ethical sense because, as animal studies scholars have shown, how animal deaths are represented greatly influences how attached or distanced we are from the problem. The word extinction does little to bring home how humans are connected to what can seem a mere ‘biological’ process that occurs somehow outside of a cultural political context. Extinctions are cultural processes, not just biological events that happen offstage; indeed, they may represent a ‘choice’, to quote Margaret Atwood on a recent visit to Australia.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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