Geographies of Extinction

Garlick, Ben and Symons, Kate (2020). Geographies of Extinction. Environmental Humanities, 12(1) pp. 296–320.



This is an article about extinction, geography, and the geographies of extinction. The emerging field of extinction studies has brought a vibrant corpus of interdisciplinary scholarship that destabilizes static notions of species, traces the spatiality of death and violence in conservation contexts, and raises important political and ethical questions regarding how lives are lost, saved, and valued. Such work offers a counter to the biopolitical tendencies of contemporary conservation discourse, emphasizing the contingent and situated character of life’s forms and the processes by which these are, often slowly, severed from place. In this article, the authors draw upon research in diverse contexts—concerning the conservation of ospreys on Speyside, Scotland, and trans-border marine conservation in Mozambique—as a lens through which to demonstrate the multiple ways in which extinctions are “placed.” These are (1) an attention to geographical contingency of wildlife under threat from extinction; (2) the multiple, overlapping, and discordant political and economic geographies of violence, death, and attempted (necessarily partial) protections through which extinction unfolds; and (3) the geographies produced as a result of extinction, be they blasted, spectral, or sites for life amid ruins.

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