The two talks described below are part of a series webinar talks focused on the theme of “Mass Extinction: Art, Ritual, Story, and the Sacred”, part of the broader Religion, Ecology, and Expressive Culture Initiative at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Register here.(link is external)
Pacific Islander Extinction Stories and Sacred Ecologies by Craig Santos Perez
In this presentation, Perez will share poetry and creative nonfiction about the mass extinction of birds in the Pacific Islands. He will also discuss how Pacific stories articulate indigenous concepts of sacred ecologies and multi-species kinships.
Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Pacific Islander from Guam. He is the co-editor of six anthologies and the author of five books of poetry and the monograph, Navigating Chamoru Poetry: Indigeneity, Aesthetics, and Decolonization. He is a professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa.
The Garland Changes Everything: Religion, Ecology, and Justice in the Sundarban by Subhankar Banerjee
This two-person panel talk will focus on a micro-scale story—a close reading of one single photograph, Dokkhin Rai, that Banerjee made in the Sundarban Tiger Reserve in India in September 2022. The photograph shows several different species of mangrove trees, a (plastic) red garland hanging from one of those trees, and a tiger just underneath and behind the tree, partially visible and looking askance at the viewer. The garland is the trace of an offering to the forest deity Bonbibi that was placed by honey collectors from a neighboring village after they came out of the forest with a successful harvest in spring. The story of Bonbibi which includes Dokkhin Rai, the demon god in the form of a tiger—is well known and written about extensively in Bengali and English. Banerjee offers a new way to engage with an old story by doing visual analysis on what appears to be likely a first-of-its-kind photograph taken in the Sundarban Tiger Reserve. Presented in a highly accessible manner, the brief remarks could be of interest to students and scholars from a wide range of fields, including religion and ecology, environmental humanities, biodiversity conservation, environmental justice, and photography.
Subhankar Banerjee is a professor of Art and Ecology and founding director of the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities at the University of New Mexico. Co-editor (with TJ Demos and Emily Eliza Scott) of the Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change (2021), Banerjee most recently served as the director and co-curator (with Jennifer Garcia Peacock) of “a Library, a Classroom, and the World” project for the 2022 Venice Biennial Art exhibition Personal Structures(link is external), which was organized and hosted by the European Cultural Centre in Venice, Italy, and won the 2022 ECC Award for University and Research Project. Banerjee wrote the Foreword for Audubon at Sea: The Coastal and Transatlantic Adventures of John James Audubon (The University of Chicago Press, 2022); is co-author (with Finis Dunaway) of an article “Beyond Fortress Conservation: Postcards of Biodiversity and Justice” scheduled to appear in the January 2023 issue of Environmental History; and is currently completing a book on shorebirds, Birds of Wind (Seven Stories Press, forthcoming).