Forgot your password? | Register Here

Public Lecture Series with David Harrison

Exploring the Plants, Languages and Traditional Knowledge of Vanuatu

Dr. K. David Harrison

Indigenous peoples around the world are stewards of most of the planet’s biodiversity, and also possess the greatest linguistic and cultural diversity. These three domains—Environment, Language, Culture—are critically interconnected. As entire domains of knowledge about the natural world vanish with disappearing languages, humanity’s ability to sustainably manage diverse ecosystems diminishes. Plant and animal species that are well known to local people but not yet known to science enter a twilight of extinction risk.

As a Linguist and Anthropologist, David Harrison spent the last two decades working closely with indigenous communities to help sustain their languages and knowledge. Small cultures are eager to cross the digital divide and acquire current technologies, while still maintaining traditional lifeways and revitalizing their languages. Their knowledge base is only beginning to be respected and acknowledged by scientists and explorers, and may hold the keys for sustainable human living on earth. By collaborating with communities in the creation of digital archives, online Talking Dictionaries, and books, the knowledge base can be maintained and secured for future generations.

In this talk, Dr. Harrison presents a multimedia report of three recent expeditions to southern islands of Vanuatu (Aneityum and Futuna). Materials contributed by those communities demonstrate the rich knowledge base these cultures have about plants, islands, and ocean ecosystems, and show a unique cultural genius for adaptation and creativity.

Dr. K. David Harrison is a linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages. He co-led the Enduring Voices Project at National Geographic Society and is Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College. Harrison received his PhD in Linguistics from Yale University in 2000, his MA in Slavic Languages from the Jagiellonian University of Cracow, Poland, and his BA in International Studies from The American University in Washington, DC.

Harrison has done extensive fieldwork in Siberia, Mongolia, India, the Pacific, and Native America. His work includes not only scientific descriptions of languages, but also storybooks, talking dictionaries, and digital archives for the use of native speaker communities. Harrison co-stars in the Emmy nominated documentary film “The Linguists”, and makes frequent media appearances to promote language diversity. His book “The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages” depicts the human factor in language extinction, recounting the personal stories of linguistic survivors from remote corners of the globe.

He is also the author of “When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge” Harrison makes frequent media appearances to promote language diversity, and his research is widely discussed in mainstream media. He has appeared on Good Morning America, The Colbert Report, WHYY Radio, BBC, NPR and in many other outlets. His work has been featured in in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Science, Nature, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

In 2004 Harrison co-founded the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness, documenting and revitalizing small languages. The institute runs language documentation projects around the globe. In 2006 he coined the term, "language hotspots", which has since become a leading promotional metaphor for understanding the language extinction crisis.

Date: Monday, June 18

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

Student Ticket Price: $5 with a valid student ID

Reservation Notes:

Click here to purchase tickets online

Reservations are allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis. To secure a reservation, you may also call us at 212.628.8383 or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Back to top
The Explorers Club ®, World Center for Exploration ®, The Flag and the Seal are registered trademarks of The Explorers Club. Use by others is strictly prohibited. Photographs appearing on this website are used by permission and may not be copied or re-used in any manner.

Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste