Thom van Dooren, Associate Professor in the School of Humanities (Gender and Cultural Studies) received the award for his work, ‘A World in a Shell: Snail Stories for a Time of Extinctions’ (MIT Press, 2022).
The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, delivered by Creative Australia, recognises outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian writing makes to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life.
This is the first year that the awards have been delivered by Creative Australia with over 643 entries received across six literary categories.
The judges described the book as work that “calls to attention the importance of recognising the specificity of each loss, and particularly of species little acknowledged in the world view.” They commended the book for its “beautiful detail” in illuminating “entanglements between the snails’ world and our own.”
More than simply being a canary in the coalmine for the coming losses we face, the snails demonstrate that climate justice is indelibly entangled with justice for First Nations people. His work speaks poignantly to the need for both, navigating grief, hope and resilience in crisis.
In A World in a Shell, Associate Professor van Dooren, who co-leads the Sydney Environment Institute's Biocultural Diversities theme, offers a collection of snail stories from Hawai'i—once home to more than 750 species of land snails, almost two-thirds of which are now gone.
The book follows snail trails across the Hawaiian Islands, exploring how their disappearance has been entangled with ongoing processes of ecological and cultural loss.
A World in a Shell: Snail Stories for a Time of Extinctions was published in September 2022. It was awarded the Gold Award, Animals & Nature in the Nautilus Book Awards (2023).
Winners of the 2023 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards will be announced on Thursday 16 November at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
Header image: Achatinella byronii, David Sischo.