Biodiversity and its Histories

24 March 2017 - 25 March 2017

Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Registration for the conference is now closed. 

 

Convenors

Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge)

Paul White (University of Cambridge)

 

Summary

Formed at the intersection of biology, politics, and law, the concept of biodiversity has become one of the most crucial and complex terms in the environmental sciences, and operates as both fact and value in public debates about the preservation of species and habitats from human influence, exploitation, and destruction. Although the origins of the concept are well known, its relationship to other traditions and discourses is less well charted.

This conference will bring together scholars and researchers in ecology, politics, geography, anthropology, cultural history, and history and philosophy of science to explore how aesthetic, economic, and moral value came to be attached to the diversity of life on earth. We will draw on a rich body of research on hybridity and exchange, habitat and distribution, civilization and extinction from the eighteenth century onwards, bringing renewed attention to a powerful contemporary concept whose historical and disciplinary breadth has yet to be critically examined. This is especially important at a moment when political debates threaten to eliminate the rich valences and values attached to biological diversity by substituting instrumental calculations and impoverished notions such as ‘ecosystem services’. 

Speakers: 

  • Uradyn Bulag (University of Cambridge)
  • Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University)
  • Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge)
  • Sabine Höhler (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
  • Jasper Montana (University of Cambridge)
  • Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter)
  • Chris Sandbrook (University of Cambridge)
  • Anne Secord (University of Cambridge)
  • Jim Secord (University of Cambridge)
  • David Sepkoski (MPI for the History of Science, Berlin)
  • Sujit Sivasundaram (University of Cambridge)
  • Alistair Sponsel (Vanderbilt University)
  • Anna Svennson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
  • Georg Toepfer (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin)
  • Alice Vadrot (University of Cambridge)
  • Emily Wakild (Boise State University)
  • Emily Wanderer (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Paul White (University of Cambridge)

 

Sponsors

       

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) and the Darwin Correspondence Project.

 

Administrative assistance: conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk

 

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants; however, the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

Day 1 - Friday 24 March

10.30 - 11.00

Registration

11.00 - 11.15

Welcome and Introduction

Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University), Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge), Paul White (University of Cambridge)

11.15 - 13.00

Session 1: Experience and Representation

Chair: Paul White (University of Cambridge)

 

Anne Secord (University of Cambridge)

Gilbert White’s interconnected world

 

Anna Svennson and Sabine Höhler (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)

Infinite variety circumscribed: a dialogue between John Ray’s Wisdom of God and John Allen’s Biosphere 2

 

Georg Toepfer (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin)

Unequivocal ethical concern in pluralistic guise

13.00 - 14.00

Lunch

14.00 - 15.45

Session 2: Measurement and Management

Chair: Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University)

 

Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter)

Art and nature in the history of natural history

 

Alice Vadrot (University of Cambridge)

Remote-sensing and in-situ observations for biodiversity conservation and science

 

Chris Sandbrook (University of Cambridge)

50 shades of green: the multiple meanings of biodiversity within the conservation movement

15.45 - 16.15

Break

16.15 - 18.00

Session 3: Values of Diversity

Chair: Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge)

 

Emily Wakild (Boise State University)

Biodiversity as justification: conservation in South America in the twentieth century

 

Jasper Montana (University of Cambridge)

Constitutional divisions in the democratisation of knowledge

 

David Sepkoski (MPI for the History of Science, Berlin)

Extinction and the value of diversity

18.00 - 19.00

Drinks reception

Day 2 - Saturday 25 March

9.30 - 11.15

Session 4: Biogeography and Evolution

Chair: Jim Secord (University of Cambridge)

 

Paul White (University of Cambridge)

Darwin’s divergence

 

Alistair Sponsel (Vanderbilt University)

Darwin's use of biodiversity as an indicator of geographical change

 

Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Where the Alps meet the Steppe: interpreting botanical diversity in a multinational empire

11.15 - 11.45

Break

11.45 - 13.30

Session 5: Biocultural Diversity

Chair: Sujit Sivasundaram (University of Cambridge)

 

Uradyn Bulag (University of Cambridge)

Chinese models of multi-culturalism/multi-nationalism and their histories

 

Emily Wanderer (University of Pittsburgh)

Vivir Mejor and the biodiverse nation

 

Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge)

Garden variety diversity: heirloom seed saving in Britain and the United States​

13.30 - 14.30

Lunch

14.30 - 16.15

Closing Discussion

Brief comments by Jim Secord, Sujit Sivasundaram, Deborah Coen, Helen Anne Curry, and Paul White, followed by open discussion