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Staged Nature: Public Aquariums as Institutions of Knowledge and the Problem of Plastic Waste

Event Type
academic, aquariums, cultural heritage, cultural knowledge, environmental science, science communication
Co-sponsored by the European Union Center and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP)
Davenport Hall, room 230, 607 S Mathews Ave, Urbana, IL 61801
Nov 28, 2018   12:00 pm  
Dr. Lars Kaijser, Department of Ethnology, Stockholm University
Free and Open to the Public
Helaine Silverman
Originating Calendar
European Union Center Events

Today, public aquariums market themselves as a nexus for environmental engagement. Against the backdrop of climate change, a vulnerable biodiversity and matters of sustainability the aquariums work with the goal of engaging visitors in topics of science and conservation. One important issue in this field of activities is ocean debris. The aquarium staffs participate in beach clean-ups, advocate for lesser use of plastic disposables, and organize exhibits on the topic.


This presentation will discuss the different ways that the public aquariums engage the visitors in this effort. Dr. Lars Kaijser of Stockholm University will argue for an understanding of their engagement through the concepts of banal sustainability and domestication. He will discuss how this encompasses an aesthetization of the problems of plastic waste.


Dr. Kaijser's project investigates how public aquariums produce and stage knowledge of nature and environment. The talk is based on ethnographic fieldwork at public aquariums in Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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