In this commentary, I tune into the soundwork of cetacean communicability and whalesong in US environmental activism beginning around 1970. In the same period that whalesong attained popular audibility, the cetacean sensorium attained an exceptional status, akin to (or even superseding) human exceptionalism. This episode suggests that whales were assigned value due to possessing racially coded “hyperbrains,” and that listening for racialization can add nuance to anthropomorphism in broader considerations of animal and environmental ethics.
Save the (White) Whales: Whalesong, the Cetacean Sensorium, and Exceptional Brains
Christina Dunbar-Hester is an interpretive social scientist whose research broadly concerns democratic control of technology. She is the author of Oil Beach: How Toxic Infrastructure Threatens Life in the Ports of Los Angeles and Beyond (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press); Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures (Princeton University Press, 2020); and Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism (MIT Press, 2014). Dunbar-Hester holds a PhD in Science & Technology Studies from Cornell University, and she is a faculty member in communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
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Christina Dunbar-Hester; Save the (White) Whales: Whalesong, the Cetacean Sensorium, and Exceptional Brains. Resonance 1 December 2022; 3 (4): 433–442. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2022.3.4.433
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