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Deborah Bird Rose :(

Deborah Bird Rose

Deborah Bird Rose

"Some sad news for those of you who knew Debbie - she died a few days ago. Debbie worked in anthropology and environmental philosophy and was writing a book about flying-foxes, which she managed to get to the publisher just before her death." - Carol Booth.

Deborah Bird Rose

Deborah Bird Rose

Deborah Bird Rose

"It feels like a race: will I finish my book about Australian flying-foxes, or will illness overtake me? Actually, the race metaphor isn’t quite right. I know the cancer will take me soon, and that this will be my last post. On the other hand, I’ve nearly completed the book, and Thom van Dooren and Matt Chrulew are going to take it over to give it a final edit and find a publisher. I’ve tentatively titled the book Shimmer. It’s about Australian Flying-foxes, the perils and joys of their lives, and the inspired carers who work to pull them back from the edge of extinction. I hope the book will be widely read so I’ve tried to avoid highly technical language, but within the nine chapters there is a post-colonial analysis of multispecies mutualisms, and an exploration of reality as experienced in the lives of many creatures, as best we can understand."

Deborah Bird Rose, “Shimmer: When All You Love is Being Trashed

Rose, Deborah Bird
Born United States of America
Occupation Ethnographer

Deborah Bird Rose, who was born in the United States and educated at the University of Delaware and Bryn Mawr, is a leader in multidisciplinary ethnographic research.

Her research since the 1980s has focused on entwined social and ecological justice, based on long-term fieldwork with Aboriginal people in Australia. Her approach has drawn on elements of anthropology, history, philosophy, cultural studies, religious studies, and animal studies and has led to innovative understandings of ethnographic and ecological knowledge, most recently in the new area of multispecies ethnography. Rose's doctoral work was inspired by questions about how a group of Aboriginal people in outback Australia 'posed and answered fundamental questions such as why are we born, why do we live, why do we die?' Her thesis dealing with these questions became the influential book, Dingo Makes Us Human: Life and Land in an Australian Aboriginal Culture (1992), which won the Stanner Prize for a work on Aboriginal issues. It is now in its third edition (2011). At about the time Dingo Makes Us Human was released, her book Hidden Histories (1991) won the 1991 Jessie Litchfield Award for Literature.

Her other major books include Country of the Heart (2011, second edition), Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction (University of Virginia Press, 2011) and Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation (UNSW Press, 2004), short listed for the NSW Premier's Awards. She has published over one hundred peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and also writes literary essays. Currently she is working on a book on relations between humans and animals, which brings Aboriginal philosophy into conversation with western philosophy and contributes to ongoing scholarship in the field of interspecies relations.

Rose has worked a consultant anthropologist for various bodies, including the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Northern Land Council, Central Land Council, NSW Parks and Wildlife Service and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority. From 1994 to 2008 she was a research scholar at the ANU, first at the North Australian Research Unit and then in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. From 2000 to 2008, she was a senior research fellow at the Centre for Resource and Environment. In 2008 she took up the position of Professor in the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University. In 2013 she left Macquarie to join the Environmental Humanities Program at UNSW. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, member of the American Anthropological Association and the Australian Anthropological Society, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. With Thom van Dooren she edits the new online journal Environmental Humanities. Prior to starting Environmental Humanities, she initiated and edited the 'Ecological Humanities' section of the Australian Humanities Review, first with Libby Robin and later with Thom van Dooren. She serves on numerous editorial boards, and is a contributor to a wide range of journals. She is a founding member of the Kangaloon Group for Creative Ecologies. She has been awarded numerous ARC Discovery grants, along with grants from other agencies including the National Science Foundation (USA), the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Academy of Social Science in Australia, and the Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories.

Deborah Bird Rose

I am an Adjunct Professor in Environmental Humanities at the University of New South Wales, Australia

Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction (UVA, 2011) starts with a moment at which I felt both called and impelled to bear witness to the great Anthropogenic disasters that are signaled by the term ‘extinction’. These disasters include the suffering and deaths of animals and other living beings, the degradation and loss of their homelands, the apparent indifference of humans, and thus also the degradation of humanity as a participant species in the community of life on earth. Through all this disaster runs a deeper issue of the despoliation of death, by which I mean the sundering of the life-death dynamic that has enabled the flourishing connectivities of life on earth.

Implicated as we are as humans in this great unmaking, we are also, I believe, called to bear witness: to explore the profound implications of, and to testify to, the deeply disastrous quality of our time. I have been working with the concept of double death, by which I mean exactly these processes that uncouple life and death, diminishing life’s capacity to offer intergenerational gifts, and diminishing death’s capacity to turn the dying back toward the living. In my book Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation, I took up the concept of double death in the context of Australian Aboriginal people and their homelands (Chapter 9). The concept underpins much of my current work, and has been developed in the context of ecosystems more generally (‘The Rain Keeps Falling’) and in the context of animals facing extinction (‘What if the Angel of History were a Dog?’). Other recent essays turn the focus toward ways of ethically witnessing to the deliberate mass-deaths of nonhuman others (‘Judas Work: Four Modes of Sorrow’).

My current work continues to explore the despoliation of both life and death through the peculiar and often disastrous encounters between human actions and animal lives that take place in the zone at the edge of extinction.

Publications concerning extinction and double death


2011 Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville. (Published in the series ‘Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism’)

2004 Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney. Shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award and the Gleebooks Prize for Critical Writing.

Articles and Chapters

2013, ‘In the Shadow of All this Death’, in Animal Death, Jay Johnston & Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, ed, Sydney University Press, Sydney, pp. 1-20.

2013 ‘Dingo Kinship’, Wildlife Australia, (Winter), 33-35.

2012 ‘Why I don’t speak of wilderness’, EarthSong, 2, 4 (Spring), 9-11,

2012 ‘Ruined Faces’, in Facing Nature: Levinas and Environmental Thought, William Edelglass, James Hatley, and Christian Diehm (eds), Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 95-108.

2012 ‘Cosmopolitics: The Kiss of Life’, New Formations, Special Issue: The Animals Turn, vol 76, 101-113.

2012 ‘Multispecies Knots of Ethical Time’, Environmental Philosophy, IX, 1, 127-140.

2012 ‘Storied-places in a multispecies city’, co-authored with Thom van Dooren, Humanimalia, 3, 2 (Spring): 1-27.

2011 ‘Flying Foxes: Kin, Keystone, Kontaminant’ in Australian Humanities Review, special issue: ‘Unloved Others: Death of the disregarded in the time of extinctions’, Deborah Rose & Thom Van Dooren, eds.

2008  ‘Journeys: Distance, Proximity and Death’ in Anna Haebich and Baden Offerd (Eds.) Landscapes of Exile, Peter Lang, London, pp. 149-156.

2008 ‘Judas Work: Four Modes of Sorrow’, Environmental Philosophy, 5, 2, 51-66.

2008 ‘On history, trees and ethical proximity’, Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 157-167.

2008 ‘Love in the Time of Extinctions’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 19:1, pp 81-83.

2007 ‘Recursive Epistemologies and an Ethics of Attention’, in Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field. J-G Goulet and B Miller, eds, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, pp. 88-102.

2006 ‘”Moral friends” in the zone of disaster’, Tamkang Review, 37, 1.  pp. 77-97.

2006 ‘What if the Angel of History were a Dog?’ Cultural Studies Review, 12, 1, 67-78.

2005  ‘The Rain Keeps Falling’, Cultural Studies Review, 11, 1, 122-127.

2005 ‘Dingo Prayers’, Island, 103, pp. 6-10.

Encyclopaedia entries

2010  ‘Extinction’, co-authored with Thom van Dooren, Encyclopedia of Geography, Barney Warf, ed, SAGE Publications, London.

Related Writings, books

2009 Dingo Makes Us Human; Life and land in an Australian Aboriginal Culture. New in Paperback,  Cambridge University Press (third printing, digital edition; winner of the 1994 Stanner Award)

Related Writings, articles and chapters

addressing ecological disaster:

2010 ‘So the future can come forth from the ground’ in Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, Kathleen Dean Moore & Michael Nelson (eds), pp. 154-157, Trinity University Press, San Antonio.

2010 Cameron Muir, Deborah Rose and Philip Sullivan ‘From the other side of the knowledge frontier: Indigenous knowledge, social–ecological relationships and new perspectives, in The Rangeland Journal, 32, 3, 259-265

2007 ‘Justice and Longing’, in Fresh Water: New Perspectives on water in Australia, Emily Potter, Alison Mackinnon, Stephen McKenzie and Jennifer McKay, eds, pp. 8-20, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

2004 ‘The Ecological Humanities in Action: An Invitation’, Australian Humanities Review, Issue 31-32, April.

addressing the commingling of death, desire, violence and redemption:

2006   ‘New World Poetics of Place: along the Oregon Trail and in the National Museum of Australia’,  in Rethinking ‘Settler’ Colonialism: History and Memory in Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand and South Africa, Annie Coombes, ed, pp. 228-244, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

2005  ‘The Redemptive Frontier: A Long Road to Nowhere’, in Dislocating the Frontier: Essaying the Mystique of the Outback, edited with Richard Davis, pp. 49-65, ANU E-Press, Canberra.

2001 ‘Aboriginal Life and Death in Australian Nationhood’, Aboriginal History, vol. 25, 148-162.


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BatsRule!: Deborah Bird Rose :(
Deborah Bird Rose :(
Deborah Bird Rose
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