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Cultivating Affective Ecologies for Unloved Biodiversity Through Visual Narrative

Friday 3 August 2018 10:05am

PhD candidate

Suus Agnes Claessen


Project Dates


Project Description

Suus Clausen Image (360)What does it take to capture the human imagination? This question is asked by Rose & Van Dooren (2011) in the context of species extinctions and the conservation of biodiversity. Typically, the charismatic animals capture our imagination, and are subjects of concern in conservation strategies, while countless ‘unloved’ lives are excluded. I respond to two major challenges outlined by ecofeminist Val Plumwood (2002): to (re)situate humans ecologically, and nonhumans ethically. Can we learn to displace ourselves from the center of the universe, and become more attentive to other ways of being in the world, where everyone is ecologically entangled?

I explore how I might cultivate ‘affective ecologies’ or ‘arts of attentiveness’ for everyday unloved microcommunities: invertebrates, moss, and fungi. By investigating the potential of visual narrative as an ethical (research) practice, I create two interventions that serve as invitations into a sense of curiosity: to frame the human home as a multispecies environment, to notice lives that are often overlooked, and imagine our common homes from their perspective.

The interventions are performative and collaborative practices of care: they generate narratives that are participant-based and also challenge my own artistic practice. I invite young participants to notice and imagine insect lives by providing them with insect hotels and asking them to cartoon in response. Similarly, I immerse myself in the entangled lives of insects, fungi, moss, and humans, by creating tales and field diaries in visual narrative format, and explore how I might provide ‘fleshy and thick’ descriptions of how they ‘relate to and make sense of (or story)’ their worlds (Van Dooren & Rose 2016), combining close observation and imagination. By documenting, analysing and comparing the storytelling processes, I aim to foster novel imaginations for how we might cohabit multispecies environments better.

Cited literature:

Plumwood, V. (2002) Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. London, UK: Routledge.
Rose, D. & T. van Dooren (2011), “Unloved Others: Death of the Disregarded in the Time of Extinctions,” special issue of Australian Humanities Review, 50.

Van Dooren, T. and D.B. Rose (2016) “Lively Ethography: Storying Animist Worlds,” Environmental Humanities, vol. 8.1, pp. 77-94.

Websites & publications

Connect: Ecological Comics