Verlust und Vielfalt. Zur Parallele von Artenschutz und Denkmalschutz um 1900

Workshop on forms of linkage between loss and diversity around 1900

The great appreciation of biological and cultural diversity in the present has its roots in the experience of an unparalleled dynamics of loss. Countless species of animals and plants have been massively reduced or irretrievably exterminated at the hands of man. Here, the change in both the natural as well as the social living conditions is often described as a historically unique process of uniformization. At the same time, diversity becomes a central motif of ecological and social movements—even if for very different reasons: from demands for the preservation of livelihoods to motifs of social justice or the increase of economic efficiency through diversity management. From a problem-historical perspective, this constellation exists since the last third of the 19th century. Since that time, the experience of loss is closely tied to a praise of diversity. This is marked by a distinctive caesura in the relationship between man and nature:
it puts an end to the optimism for progress and the belief in humanity’s task of cultivation. During this time, early ecological insights into the fragile dynamics of natural systems lead to demands for the preservation of these systems and their diversity for their own sake as well as for the sake of life on earth. Around 1900, this constellation has insofar solidified itself as it takes on institutional forms and becomes part of political programs in the protection of nature and historical monuments. Remarkably, the conservation of species resorts to very similar forms of argumentation as the protection of monuments. These movements are connected by a deep mistrust towards man’s ability to substantially shape the world. Since then, “diversity” has become a signum for Western culture’s reservation against itself. The term stands for a break with the narrative of progress and marks the suppressed or marginalized other of the dominant direction of development.

The workshop asks for forms of linkage between loss and diversity around 1900. It will focus on conceptual and narrative requirements of this linkage in philosophy, science, and literature: how is this loss specifically experienced and described? What is the background against which it is evaluated and under what criteria? Which role do arguments in favor of the value of diversity play? Is it primarily the past that is being imagined as more diverse? What experiences are connected with diversity?

The workshop aims to discover the ecological imaginary in the early stages of the conservation of species and monuments.