n the introduction to Decolonizing Extinction, Juno Salazar Parreñas tell us that her “intention in this book is to urge reflection” (p. 3). As the reviews in this forum demonstrate, Parreñas was very successful! This book made us think in new ways about extinction, rehabilitation, conservation, care, labor, gender, motherhood, sexual violence, coloniality, autonomy, vulnerability, and human-animal relations. Decolonizing Extinction also made us feel in new ways, as we were confronted with the pain of individual human and nonhuman beings, and with the violence not only of colonialism and extinction but of rehabilitation and the quest for survival and autonomy.
Based on ethnographic research in two orangutan rehabilitation centers in Malaysian Borneo, the book urges us to think about mutual but unequal vulnerability in the face of annihilation. The first section of the book, Relations, examines how humans attempt to build social relations with orangutans, a famously solitary species. This section moves between the rehab center, the history of decolonization, and the global economy of tourism, between gender, labor, and affect. The second section, Enclosures, considers how orangutans and the humans who care for them experience inter-related enclosures. Focusing on “the shared interface of loss” for animals and people in the face of dispossession, this section moves from forced reproduction for orangutans to waged labor for indigenous caretakers (28). The third section, Futures, asks what the future of constrained rehabilitation might look like in the interlinked dynamics of financial capitalization and decolonization. This section focuses on the arrested autonomy of the orangutans and their caretakers, and provides us with a vision of the rehabilitation center as hospice for a dying species.
Decolonizing Extinction urges an entirely different way of thinking about rehabilitation and the work of care for endangered species. The six review essays take up the framing questions that Parreñas poses for the reader (p.3): “What if we experienced this present era of extinction without violent domination and colonization over others, particularly nonhuman beings? Can we instead embrace the vulnerability of sharing our lives together, however fleeting those moments might be? Can we abandon an impression of safety that depends on cruelty?”