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This panel ethnographically explores contemporary biodiversity conservation beyond one of its most basic units of thought and intervention—the species concept—and asks what other scales, units and analytics shape its workings in multiple contexts.
The species concept has had a long, 'lively existence' (Kirksey 2015) in both biodiversity conservation and popular imaginaries of extinction and environmental crisis. Yet its 'apparent conceptual transparency' (Youatt 2015) belies its highly contingent and even contradictory character. On the one hand, species boundaries and categories are heterogeneous and malleable, acquiring multiple meanings and politics across different contexts (e.g. Braverman 2015; Kirksey 2015; Youatt 2015). On the other hand, species-based classifications and taxonomies can purify and essentialise, undergirding rigid biopolitical regimes unable to account for real life's messy, transgressive transformations and relations (e.g. Fredriksen 2016; Mitchell 2016).
Building on recent problematisations of this concept, this panel aims to explore different forms and practices of conservation beyond species. We invite contributions that ethnographically describe, interrogate or think with other units of and for conservation thought and intervention, such as landscapes, multispecies communities, biosocial ecologies, and microbial terroirs (among many other things). Some of these units nuance, expand or coexist alongside the species concept; others may undermine or contradict it. By foregrounding them, we seek to provoke thought about how conservation works with (or without) species, and what new relational formations and dynamics are emerging in contemporary conservation contexts. How might careful, critical attention to soils, bacteria, and viruses, for example, reshape the object(ive)s of conservation? How can we view living (and non-living) beings through different registers? How do we (re)scale the more-than-human stakes of conservation by thinking beyond species?