386) Jen Telesca: The managed extinction of the giant bluefin tuna


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“What I find worth remarking upon is the fact that the vast majority of people are so alienated from the Bluefin’s life world that they don’t know what an extraordinary creature she is—and instead just widely see her as a foodstuff, trafficked on the global market. It’s imperative for that worldview to change.”

In this episode, we welcome Jennifer E. Telesca, Associate Professor of Environmental Governance in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at the Nijmegen School of Management, Radboud University, the Netherlands. Her work takes a critical approach to ocean studies, spanning the interests of environmental diplomacy, ethnographies of international law in society, the human–animal relationship, political economy, the politics of extinction, and science and technology in policymaking. She conducts fieldwork at the United Nations and in treaty bodies, diplomatic missions, and other sites scaled supranationally.

Red Gold: The Managed Extinction of the Giant Bluefin Tuna (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) is Telesca’s first single-authored book. Its on-the-ground, first-person research has shown just how damned the lives of fishes are in the very world entrusted to care for them in ocean governance. Her second book on hydrothermal vents, tentatively titled, The Midnight Zone, invites readers to honor creatures in all their mysterious and seemingly impossible forms at sites in the deep dark sea—open to regulatory oversight—where scientists believe life on Earth began.

Some of the topics we explore in this conversation include how the Giant Bluefin tuna went from being food for the poor to becoming a global delicacy symbolic of luxury, how fish have long been "an object through which global empires have been mediated," Jen's concerns with the scams and blue-washing of eco certifications in seafood, and more.

(The musical offering featured in this episode Over It by RVBY MY DEAR. The episode-inspired artwork is by Mi Young.)

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