Michelle Bastian deposited Whale Falls, Suspended Ground, and Extinctions Never Known on Humanities Commons 2 years, 9 months ago
This article contributes to work within extinction studies by asking how one might “story” extinctions of creatures that have been, and will remain, unknown. It grapples with losses that have been unrecorded, unmissed, and unrecognizable via the “lively ethography” approach to storying extinction. This approach, developed by Deborah Bird Rose and Thom van Dooren, seeks to draw readers into imaginative encounters with embodied, specific, and lively creatures to support situated ethical responses. While at first this approach might seem antithetical to exploring unknown extinctions, this article argues that it can provide an important stimulus for developing a situated approach to losses that are often thought of in terms of undifferentiated masses. The article’s focus is on the recently discovered ecosystems of creatures that live on the remnants of dead whales on the sea floor, which are known as “whale falls.” It reads these ecosystems via a notion of “suspended ground,” which brings together philosopher Mick Smith’s rethinking of an ethics of encounter with unknown soil extinctions and Stacy Alaimo’s concept of “suspension.” The article argues that engaging with ethographic writing from this perspective enables one to weave a more explicit account of the mysterious and the unknown into the approach.