26 March 2018
Zoologisches Museum Hamburg
Centrum für Naturkunde (CeNak)
The Sociality of Birds: Reflections on Ontological Edge Effects
Lecture by Prof. Anna Tsing
How might quite different kinds of people appreciate birds? And in what ways do birds appreciate (or refuse the attentions of) people? This talk reflects on the sociality of birds from the perspective of an anthropologist, that is, a representative of a field that once only studied humans but now finds itself needing to consider social relations as a more-than-human affair. Anthropologists have worried that in studying nonhuman socialities, we find ourselves ever more entangled with the Western imperial projects to which the field has hoped to show alternatives. At the same time, to ignore nonhumans as social beings blithely ignores Anthropocene destruction, which haunts our species too. This talk explores what it would mean to take overlapping—but non-identical—forms of curiosity as a starting point for getting to know birds. Traveling to the Raja Ampat islands of West Papua, Indonesia, in the company of bird experts, the author watched birds and villagers and birdwatchers in their common muddling together. One of the surprises of the trip was the enthusiasm of villagers for showing international guests their local birds. Where did this enthusiasm come from, she asked, and how did it interact both with birds’ own agendas in villages and with the international political economy of birdwatching? Exploring such questions leads us into new forms of collaboration across the humanities, arts, and natural sciences: collaborations we may need to survive the Anthropocene. To recognize the dance of more-than-human sociality, the author suggests, requires attention both to varied agendas people have with birds and to those birds have with people.
Anna Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark where she co-directs Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). She is the author of a series of books from Princeton University Press, including The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015); Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2007), and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place (1993). Tsing is also the co-editor of several publications including, more recently, Words in Motion: Towards a Global Lexicon (Duke University Press) and Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). The German translation of her mushroom book, Der Pilz am Ende der Welt, is fresh of the press at the Berlin-based publisher Matthes & Seitz.
The event will be moderated by Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin; it will be held in English with simultaneous German translation. Doors of the exhibition open at 17h00.
RSVP for the event via info[at]reassemblingnature[dot]org is kindly required until 20 March.
Image credit: Red birds-of-paradise, Waigeo Island, Indonesia.
Photo by Yulia Bereshpolova, December 2017.