Sara Asu Schroer, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen

Sentinels of disaster: On precarious avian lifeworlds in the Anthropocene

This paper presents an initial exploration into questions of species (de)-extinction. It will draw on current debates on domestication, multi-species ethnography and the Anthropocene to connect observations of human-bird intimacies in the domestic breeding of birds of prey with the environmental history of the fate of bird species in time of rapid environmental change. The focus will be on the historical trajectory of the peregrine falcon in Europe and North America. This takes us from a time of near extinction of the species, mainly due to the use of pesticides in industrial agriculture, to its status as a key-stone species in conservation. Once bred in captivity birds were released back into the wild, albeit still closely monitored through intrusive management methods, as well as radio tracking, to ensure their survival. The crux of the paper lies in the paradox that the growing concern of the species' survival in the wild has ultimately led to its domestication. Drawing avian lifeworlds ever more closely into an interdependency with humans and their care. Through complicating straightforward boundary drawing between categories of the wild and domestic, the cultural and the ecological, this paper raises questions surrounding livability and what it means for a species to flourish in the Anthropocene.

Dr. Sara Asu Schroer is currently affiliated with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, having recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship as part of the interdisciplinary ERC funded project Arctic Domus at the same institution. Building on her Ph.D. on hunting in collaboration with birds of prey (falconry), her post-doctoral research was concerned with questions of avian domestication and the event of captive breeding of raptors. Having considered questions of more-than-human learning, knowledge formation, sociality and intimacy through her ethnographic material, she is now concerned with the broader ecological relationships that intertwine human and avian lifeworlds in a time of rapid environmental change and extinction. She is co-editor of Exploring Atmospheres Ethnographically published with Routledge in 2018 and is convener of the EASA network Humans and Other Living Beings.

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