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Vanished: Narrating Extinction from the Dodo to Extinction Rebellion

Language and Nature
research talks
Monday 6 March 2023, 17:00-18:00 GMT

Dr Sadiah Qureshi, University of Birmingham

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We are so familiar with extinction that it is hard to imagine a world where nothing was believed to be extinct. Yet, the science of extinction is modern. Up until the eighteenth century, well-known losses, such as the Mauritian dodo, were attributed to human actions. In the later eighteenth century, George Cuvier argued that fossilized elephantine beasts such as the Mastodon were a different species to their living relatives. This research helped establish the notion that extinction was both endemic and widespread in earth’s history and quickly underpinned new ideas about loss and endangerment in the modern world. This lecture will explore how naturalists established the notion that extinction was a ubiquitous natural process and the lasting legacies of that shift to the present day.

Bio: Sadiah Qureshi is a historian of race, science, and empire and is currently writing a history of extinction for Penguin Random House. Her previous book, Peoples on Parade (2011), explored the importance of displayed peoples for the remaking of race and anthropology in the nineteenth century.