In the Shadow of All This Death

Keynote Address prepared for the conference ‘Animal Death’, paperswriter Hosted by the Human-Animal Research Network, Sydney University, June 12-13, 2012

Deborah Bird Rose
Professor of Social Inclusion, Macquarie University
Visiting Professorial Fellow, Environmental Humanities, UNSW

Deathzone (n): a place where the living and the dying encounter each other in the presence of that which cannot be averted. This intimate and ultimate place is not, as some have imagined, a purely human domain. Animals belong here too, and when we humans deprive ourselves of participation with them we lose something of our kinship within earthly communities of life as well as death.

My purpose is first to explore some parameters of multispecies death zones, and then to consider our place as participants in multispecies communities in this era of anthropogenic extinctions. The contemporary violence inflicted on animal others goes beyond the face-to-face deathzone, casting an appalling shadow over all our communities, those of life as well as death. As our world becomes ever more ghostly, we are called ever more urgently. Inside this isolating shadow we glimpse but cannot grasp: splintered chords, narratives of blood, doubled sorrows, and haunted, reverberating silence.
Visitors might also be interested in the recent ABC Radio National program Howl.