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Published as Chapter 1 in Animals, Biopolitics, Law: Lively Legalities, Irus Braverman, ed.

“The Regulatory Life of Threatened Species Lists” explores a prominent technology for the legal regulation of nonhuman life: the threatened species list. I argue that threatened species lists are biopolitical technologies: they produce and reinforce underlying species ontologies by creating, calculating, and governing the boundaries between various nonhuman species. Such a differentiated treatment of the life and death of nonhuman species through their en-listing, down- and up-listing, multi-listing, and un-listing translates into the positive protection and active governance of such species. Listing threatened species thus becomes a way to affirm — and to justify — which lives are more and most important to save, thereby reifying the distinction between those who save (humans) and those who can only be saved (nonhumans). Specifically, the last two decades have witnessed an explosion of national and global lists of threatened and endangered species. In 2010, at least 109 countries had produced a national list of threatened species and more than 25 listing systems of threatened species were used across North America alone. The IUCN Red List for Threatened Species is the first and most comprehensive attempt at the global listing of all threatened species and, increasingly, of all species. This chapter utilizes an empirical and ethnographic methodology to explore the nature of lists, and of the Red List in particular; it then proceeds to examine the biopolitical aspects of the Red List as well as its global, regulatory, scientific, and seductive powers.


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New York



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threatened species list, biopolitics, legal ethnography, IUCN Red List


Anthropology | Geography | Law

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Animals, Biopolitics, Law: Lively Legalities on 12/22/2015, available online:

The Regulatory Life of Threatened Species Lists