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Across the world, elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus is increasingly killing elephant calves and threatening the long-term survival of the Asian elephant, a species that is currently facing extinction. This talk presents several open-ended stories of elephant care in times of death and loss: at places of confinement and elephant suffering like the zoos in Seattle and Zürich as well as in the conflict-ridden landscapes of South India, Myanmar, and Indonesia where some of the last free-ranging Asian elephants live. These stories of deadly viral-elephant-human becomings remind us that neither human care, love and attentiveness, nor techniques of control and creative management are sufficient to fully secure elephant survival. The talk introduces the concept of “viral creep” to explore the ability of a creeping, only partially knowable virus to rearrange relations among people, animals, and objects despite multiple experimental human regimes of elephant care, governance, and organization. The viral creep exceeds the physical and intellectual contexts of human interpretation and control. It reminds us that uncertainty and modes of imaging are always involved when we make sense of the world around us.

Speaker Bio

Celia Lowe is Professor of Anthropology and International Studies and Director of the Southeast Asia Center at the University of Washington. Her work in Indonesia concerns the travels of scientific knowledge, especially biological knowledge, between EuroAmerica and Southeast Asia. Her first book, Wild Profusion: Biodiversity Conservation in an Indonesian Archipelago, published by Princeton in 2006, examined the role of Indonesian conservation biology in the creation of a new national park. She is currently working on a book on the recent H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in Indonesia and is interested in the way new forms of biosecurity and risk were in play in relation to the disease. She contributes to work in the fields of science and technology studies, the environmental humanities, and Southeast Asian studies.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Ideas and Society, Science Studies workgroup, SEATRiP, and Department of Anthropology.