CFP Winged Geographies: Birds in Space and Imagination

CFP – Winged Geographies: Birds in Space and Imagination
University of Cambridge / 16-17 April 2020

This workshop will address the question of our evolving spatial relationships with bird life. The presence of birds and their song have long shaped human experience and conceptualisation of the skies, the countryside as well as urban and domestic environments. Birds have been collected, traded and re-contextualised across territories. And their migrations have inspired new kinds of human connections, both psychic and physical. How have birds been part of human efforts to make sense of terrestrial and non-terrestrial places and places? Such a question implicates all kinds of actors: gardeners, soldiers, pilots, naturalists, children, writers and philosophers. Aristophanes’ play The Birds saw two frustrated Athenians join with the birds to build a utopian city in the clouds, a new republic where ‘Wisdom, Grace and Love pervade the scene’. Steven Feld’s work with the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea showed that the avian voices heard in the forest defined an entire cultural and spiritual realm. Today, birds increasingly draw attention as indicators of environmental crisis. Amid the age of Anthropocene, are the much-loved imaginative and metaphorical readings of bird life still culturally productive or dangerously retrograde?

This workshop aims to explore cultural geographies shaped by the close consideration of birds. We encourage papers of all kinds but you may want to consider these themes:

–       Flight and space: seeing with the eyes of a bird, escape from terrestrial boundaries, aviation
–       Soundscape: bird song and calls in defining spaces and places
–       Shared space: habitats and landscapes of co-existence and extinction
–       Proximity: birds in captivity, birds in the home and garden
–       Mobility and borders: bird trading, bird-watching, distribution and migration mapping, ideas of territory and identity
–       Imaginative avian geographies: ideas from art, literature and music

Keynote speakers will be Rachel Mundy (Assistant Professor of Music, Rutgers University, USA) and Dolly Jørgensen (Professor of History, University of Stavanger, Norway).

Organisers: Olga Petri, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge; Michael Guida, Research Associate and Tutor, Department of Media & Cultural Studies, University of Sussex.

International scholars from geography, history, animal studies, anthropology, ornithology, environmental humanities, STS and cultural studies are encouraged to participate, although all disciplines are welcomed. There will be some financial support for travel for PhD students and early career scholars.

The aim is for the workshop to facilitate the development of papers for an edited collection or for a special journal edition.

Abstracts of 250 words, with a short biography of 100 words, should be submitted by 8 November 2019 here:

Published by animalhistorygroup

The Animal History Group is a research network open to all postgraduates, academics, museum workers and other professionals whose work engages with animals within history. We foster connections between those active in this field within the London area and beyond, with the goal of inspiring, creating and developing new knowledge about the place of animals within history. You can follow us on Twitter at @AnimalHistories or email us at

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