Sala de Graus II. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
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CREAF Talk with Elizabeth Callaway - "Biodiversity and Narrative: the Ecosystems of Science Fiction"

Jueves, Abril 20, 202312 - 1 pm

TITLE: Biodiversity and narrative: the ecosystems of science fiction

DATE: Thursday, 20th April 2023.

TIME & FORMAT: form 12 to 1pm CET - In-person and online.

Seminars will combine in-person and online formats (CREAF, Sala Graus II, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain) but in all cases, talks will be always streamed (not recorded), so they can be followed online.

HOW TO CONNECT: direct link to Elizabeth Callaway's conference.


In the past forty years biodiversity has become one of the central organizing principles through which we understand the nonhuman environment. The deceptively simple definition of biodiversity as the variation among living organisms masks its status as a hotly contested term both within the sciences and more broadly. Biodiversity is not only a scientific concept, but a broader cultural device used to talk about what we value in nature. In this talk I look at fictional biodiversity to understand the stories, genres, and tropes that are drawn upon when thinking about the variety of life on Earth. Science fiction ecosystems, since they are imagined from the ground up, are especially generative for revealing underlying stories we use to understand biodiversity. Dune by Frank Herbert and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, imagine ecosystems that hide a secret at their center. The solving of the biodiversity-puzzle in each book grants characters the ability to save their worlds—or to destroy them. Looking at these science fiction narratives reveals underrecognized aspects of popular conceptions of biodiversity.


Elizabeth Callaway is an assistant professor at the University of Utah and affiliated faculty with the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program. Her book Eden’s Endemics: Narratives of Biodiversity on Earth and Beyond (University of Virginia Press) investigates the stories we tell about the multiplicity of life on Earth. Her current book project looks at the relationship between artificial intelligence and the natural environment. She has published articles on digital humanities, climate change, and the speculative ecosystems of science fiction.

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