Jennifer E. Telesca is Associate Professor of Environmental Governance in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at the Nijmegen School of Management, Radboud University, the Netherlands. Her work takes a critical approach to ocean studies, spanning the interests of environmental diplomacy, ethnographies of international law in society, the human–animal relationship, political economy, the politics of extinction, and science and technology in policymaking. She conducts fieldwork at the United Nations and in treaty bodies, diplomatic missions, and other sites scaled supranationally.
Red Gold: The Managed Extinction of the Giant Bluefin Tuna (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) is Telesca’s first single-authored book. Its on-the-ground, first-person research has shown just how damned the lives of fishes are in the very world entrusted to care for them in ocean governance. Her second book on hydrothermal vents, tentatively titled, The Midnight Zone, invites readers to honor creatures in all their mysterious and seemingly impossible forms at sites in the deep dark sea—open to regulatory oversight—where scientists believe life on Earth began.
Telesca is trained to cross disciplines. By meandering past the silos in academic fields, she incites fresh thinking through unexpected scholarly alliance. This mode of engagement was honed in her pursuit of a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University, where she earned a Distinguished Dissertation Award. She also holds double MAs, one in Law and Society from New York University and the other in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut—Storrs. At the latter, she earned a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. Prior to graduate school, she received a BA with Departmental Honors in History from the University of Richmond in Virginia.
In spring 2022, Telesca served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway. There she contributes to an international research team of anthropologists, legal scholars, and climate scientists to execute the large-scale, cross-disciplinary project, “Island Lives, Ocean States: Sea Level Rise and Maritime Sovereignties in the Pacific.” Led by Professor Edvard Hviding of UiB, the project has won support from the Research Council of Norway’s TOPPFORSK Programme for Scientific Excellence (2018-2024). In this capacity, Telesca follows the development of ocean governance as it relates to UN Sustainable Development Goal #14 (Life below Water) and to a treaty now in formation dedicated in name to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). This research compliments another collaborative project she joined in Summer 2021 about animal agency, sentience, and cognition among marine mammals, octopuses, and tunas, funded by the Brooks Institute under the direction of Dale Jamieson of New York University. Grants from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Furthermore Foundation: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, among others, have generously supported her research and writing over the years.
Prior to joining Radboud University, Telesca was Assistant then Associate Professor of Environmental Justice in the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. At Pratt, in 2017, she won the Positive Impact Award for Leadership in Sustainability Education. During her tenure, she co-founded a week-long series of events dedicated to fresh and salt water called Blue Week. She also served as faculty advisor for the undergraduate environmental group, Envirolutions, which organized campaigns to rid campus of single-use plastics and to divest Pratt’s endowment from fossil fuels.
In the classroom, Telesca encourages students to push through the anxiety wrought by ecological destruction, not to deny or erase it but to confront directly the contemporary predicament for healing to occur. What worlds can we imagine—and install—that would neutralize the forces separating people from each other and from the biomes shared with other beings? The goal is to discover, to reclaim, to love, to respect, to become curious about all sorts of life on our planetary home.
Jen lives in the Netherlands. You can find her on long walks, kayaking, cultivating plants, following the feats of fútbol's beautiful game, and learning how to better multispecies relate. Her activity on social media is thin and spotty. Better to reach her directly at jen.telesca[at]ru.nl.
~ November 2022