I’m a field philosopher and writer. I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney, Australia. From 2020-2022, I am also a Professor II in the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities at the University of Oslo, Norway.
My current research and writing focus on some of the many philosophical, ethical, cultural, and political issues that arise in the context of species extinctions and human entanglements with threatened species and places. This research is funded by the Australian Research Council (DP110102886; DP150103232; FT160100098) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany).
I have explored these themes in depth in three recent books: Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (2014), The Wake of Crows: Living and Dying in Shared Worlds (2019), and the co-edited collection Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations (2017), all published by Columbia University Press.
In 2022, I will publish my first book on this topic for a general readership, focused on the disappearing land snails of Hawai`i (MIT Press). While snails rarely get a mention in most discussions of our sixth mass extinction event, the sad reality is that they are disappearing more rapidly than any other species, and Hawai`i’s snails are amongst the hardest hit. Following snail trails through the islands’ forests, laboratories, museums, and even a military live-fire training facility, this book explores processes of ecological and cultural loss as they are woven through with possibilities for hope, care, mourning, and resilience. Further information on this book is available here.
This book arises out of my current major research project focused on cultures of extinction in Oceania. At this stage this work includes a range of other publications, a radio documentary, and a multimedia living archive of extinction stories from around the region.
My research works across the disciplines of cultural studies, philosophy, science and technology studies, and related fields. I completed my BA (honours) at the Australian National University (2003), and my PhD in the Fenner School of Environment and Society, also at the ANU (2007). From 2011-2017 I helped to establish and then worked with the Environmental Humanities group at the University of New South Wales, where we set up Australia’s (and one of the world’s) first undergraduate qualifications in the Environmental Humanities and the world’s first MOOC in this emerging area.
I have held visiting positions at the University of California at Santa Cruz (2005, 2010), the Environmental Humanities Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (2014), the Department of Anthropology at MIT (2018), the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (2018), and been a Humboldt Research Fellow (Experienced Researchers) at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (2014, 2015, 2016).
From 2012-2019, I was co-editor of the international, open-access journal Environmental Humanities (Duke University Press). I founded this journal with the late Deborah Bird Rose as the first space dedicated explicitly to this emerging field. In 2014, Deborah retired and I co-edited the journal with Elizabeth DeLoughrey (UCLA).
Email: thom.van.dooren [at] sydney.edu.au