Abundance and Loss: Narratives of Diversity across the Natural and Human Sciences
History of Science Annual Workshop
3-4 February 2023
Co-organized by Erika Milam and Banu Subramaniam
Biodiversity as a topic has been explored by scholars across the environmental humanities and environmental history, including many of the participants in this workshop. As a scientific idea, biodiversity has long origins in theories of natural abundance and hope, tinged with fears over death and loss. Even more broadly, analogies between human populations and plant or animal species have long driven shifts in social, economic, and political theory. Our goal with this workshop is to think together about the intellectual and cultural work done by ideas of abundance and loss in nature, from the early modern world to the twenty-first century, and especially the nodes crossing the natural sciences and humanities that have driven changes in these ideas. In recent decades, biodiversity and diversity have become proxies for many things. There is a rich critique of diversity work in the academy, including its recent form as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI). Diversity has become a powerful buzzword across disciplines and a compelling site for organizing funding and garnering institutional attention. Have these concepts become bland avatars, emptied of power and meaning? If so, how and why did this happen? If not, how did these narratives become so widespread? Untangling the power and politics at the heart of these histories would be useful so as to rearticulate their meanings and give us greater traction over the present. We have in mind three sessions – Power and Politics; Meaning and Value; and Abundance and Loss – although we imagine that these themes will run through many of the papers.
Sponsored by the Program in the History of Science and the High Meadows Environmental Institute