Faculty in the Department of Politics shared thoughts about their recent work.
Rafi Youatt, Assistant Professor of Politics, recently published Counting Species: Biodiversity in Global Environmental Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), which focuses on the environmental politics of global biodiversity. Youatt shared this summary about the work:
“We know that nonhuman species are going extinct at a rate that far exceeds the normal background rate of evolution due to the activities of some humans, and that this mass extinction event is affecting ecological and political webs of many different kinds. But politics does not and should not proceed smoothly from the invocation of crisis to technical solution, and so what interests me in the book is what comes in between those two steps.
Biodiversity loss as a political project has often involved a politics that either diverts attention from the underlying causes, or incorporates it into forms of governance that are perhaps as debilitating as the systems they need to change. I wrote this book to understand how it came to be that people might be committed to ecological and interspecies justice, yet be alienated from environmentalism, and what role the evolution of biodiversity governance has played in that split.
More broadly, work in global environmental politics has, strangely enough, often not put much stock in the kinds of agency that nonhuman life exerts in the world. Understanding political agency as exclusively human seemed to me to foreclose the conceptual grounds on which environmental issues could in fact be understood and addressed, in a politics beyond the human.”
Other publications include “Interspecies Relations, International Relations: Rethinking Anthropocentric Politics” (Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 2014) and “Pain, Power, and the Interspecies Politics of Foie Gras” (Political Research Quarterly, 2011).
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Bio | Youatt received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2007. Youatt is interested in questions of agency and power in human-nonhuman relations as they relate to political life and thought. His current research explores the intersection of interspecies relations and international relations in American borderlands.