Irving Institute Affiliate Laura Ogden Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Featured on Dartmouth News, Laura Ogden, a professor of anthropology and special advisor to the provost on climate and sustainability at Dartmouth College, is an affiliate of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. Ogden is among the recipients of this year's prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowships, awarded to individuals who demonstrate exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.

"Throughout my career, I have sought to understand the ways environmental change, conservation efforts, and colonialism articulate to transform the world," says Ogden, whose ethnographic research includes studies in the Florida Everglades, Tierra del Fuego, and urban environments around the United States. 

The Guggenheim award—which she calls "an enormous honor and a rare moment of feeling like my work is on the right path"—will allow her to complete her current book project, The Book of Birds: A Memoir of Extinction, which explores the push, begun in the 1980s, to save the California condor from extinction. 


Photo by Katie Lenhart
Photo by Katie Lenhart

"I have always been committed to experiments with writing that provoke readers to feel the world, as much as think about it—and the urgency of climate change certainly compels the way I am thinking about the form and audience," Ogden says of the project. "At this moment, it feels important to tell stories of small moments of repair and possibility."

The story of condor recovery—"the product of one of the most expensive conservation efforts in United States history"—has complex ethical ramifications, she says. 

"I remain deeply ambivalent about what 'success' means as wildfires and avian flu have emerged as new threats to condors. The book is an investigation of the significance of those threats through the lens of both settler and Indigenous recovery programs—allowing me to examine the ethics, politics, and practicalities of reintroducing species into a world of escalating environmental precarity. Though painful, this project considers the urgent question of how we hold our ground in an era of mass extinction, including the possibility of letting some species go."

Ogden is the author of two previous books: Loss and Wonder at the World's End and Swamplife: The Entangled Lives of Hunters, Gators and Mangroves in the Florida Everglades. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina and went on to complete her master's and PhD in anthropology from the University of Florida. She has been a member of the Dartmouth faculty since 2014.

"Being at Dartmouth has shaped my scholarship in multiple ways, including the opportunity to teach and think with students on topics that matter and inspire me," she says. "Support from the Leslie Center for the Humanities and my department has helped grow and nurture a community of writers and environmental humanities scholars who bring me so much joy."