“The Bio-Indicator: Species Preservation and Ecological Collapse in California’s Water Wars” Research Seminar by Andrew Lakoff

Aprovechando la visita Andrew Lakoff a Barcelona en el marco de una breve estancia de investigación con el grupo STS-b, organizamos el seminario: “The Bio-Indicator: Species Preservation and Ecological Collapse in California’s Water Wars”. En él, Andrew nos contará su más reciente investigación en torno a las prácticas gubernamentales en políticas de protección ambiental.

Para aquellos interesados, la charla será el Jueves 25 de Junio de 2015, de 16 a 18h, en la Sala -1H de la sede del 22@ de la UOC (Rambla Poblenou 156, 08018, Barcelona).

Aquellos/aquellas interesados/as, podéis registraros aquí

“The Bio-Indicator: Species Preservation and Ecological Collapse in California’s Water Wars”
Andrew Lakoff (University of Southern California)

This talk focuses on a battle over an endangered species of fish that has been at the center of California’s water politics over the past two decades. It tracks the struggle, conducted by an alliance of biologists, fisherman, and environmental activists, to protect the humble delta smelt. Through the case of the smelt, it asks how the goal of species preservation, enshrined in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, is integrated into contemporary governmental practice–in particular, the regulation of water distribution. What values are at play in efforts to sustain the existence of non-human life in an arid region with ever-increasing water demands? How, in turn, are such values operationalized in a regulatory regime that seeks causal attribution for population decline and develops technical measures to forestall extinction? The essay suggests that smelt protection efforts are driven by two, temporally distinct value-orientations. The first is past-oriented, focusing on the preservation of existing species as a good in itself. This orientation is enshrined in the legislation that structures protection efforts, the Endangered Species Act. The second is future-oriented, focused on staving off an approaching ecosystem collapse that is signaled by the smelt population’s decline. Here the smelt serves not as a value in itself but as an “indicator” species; it is a proxy in a struggle against a broader catastrophe. From this latter perspective, the Environmental Species Act provides potentially powerful tools for limiting or redirecting human incursions into ecological systems, but it is limited by its narrow focus on species protection.

Andrew Lakoff was trained as an anthropologist of science and medicine, and has conducted research in Argentina, France and the United States. His areas of interest include globalization processes, the history of the human sciences, and the implications of biomedical innovations. Lakoff’s first book, Pharmaceutical Reason: Knowledge and Value in Global Psychiatry (Cambridge, 2005), examines the role of the global circulation of pharmaceuticals in the spread of biological models of human behavior. He has also co-edited a book entitled Global Pharmaceuticals: Ethics, Markets, Practice (Duke, 2006), and has published articles on visual technology and the behavioral sciences, on the history of attention deficit disorder, on antidepressants and the placebo effect, and on forms of expertise in global health. Lakoff’s current research concerns the recent articulation of public health and security, and his most recent book publications are the co-edited volume, Biosecurity Interventions: Global Health and Security in Question (Columbia University Press, 2008), and the edited volume Disaster and the Politics of Intervention (Columbia University Press, 2010). He is also one of the executive editors of the scholarly journal/art magazine Limn


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