Requiem for a Junk-Bird: Violence, Purity and the Wild

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Hugo Reinert


The article describes an experiment in captive-bred supplementation of a highly endangered wild bird species that took place in the Norwegian Arctic a few years ago. Following the fate of a single bird, over the course of two years, the argument lays out some of the powerful conceptual, political and affective stakes involved in the experiment. The brief life of the bird, named A16, was contained almost entirely within an unresolved tension between salvific urgency and a purist biopolitics, deeply committed to the preservation of vanishing (or vanished) forms. Behind the scenes of the experiment, ornithological factions clashed over issues like genetic purity, the integrity of migration routes and the potential for behavioral contamination. Laying out the stakes of this, the argument begins to develop an account of salvific violence in conservation work—a framework for questioning the affective investments that drive purificatory biopolitics, especially during a time of planetary turmoil. What stands to be saved, what must be destroyed? What is a species, exactly, such that it can (or cannot) be saved in certain ways? What was A16?

Article Details

Extinction (Peer Reviewed)