© Polina de Mauny

Winged Geographies:

Birds in Space and Imagination

16 - 17 APRIL 2020

Department of Geography

University of Cambridge


Winged Geographies will address the question of our evolving spatial relationships with bird life. The presence of birds and their song has 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. 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 avian spaces and places? Such a question implicates all kinds of actors: gardeners, scholars, 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. In the Anthropocene, are the much-loved imaginative and metaphorical readings of bird life still culturally productive or dangerously retrograde?

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: trading, watching, mapping, territory and identity

  • Imaginative avian geographies: ideas from art, literature and music.

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

Abstracts of 250 words

should be submitted by 8 November

2019 via the workshop submission page: https://wg2020.exordo.com/

Or simply click the button  'SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACT"

Key Speakers



Assistant Professor of Music in the Arts, Culture, & Media program at Rugters University in Newark, USA

Rachel Mundy specializes in twentieth-century sonic culture with interests at the juncture of music, the history of science, and animal studies. Her research shows how music has been used to navigate changing boundaries between race, species, and culture in the twentieth century.



Professor of History at the University of Stavanger, Norway.

Dolly is most interested in how human technologies shape the world around us and how we come to understand what is "natural" and what is not, what is acceptable environmental behavior and what is not. Her research spans from medieval to contemporary environmental issues. Her primary areas of interest are human-animal relations, the urban environment, and environmental policymaking.

Department of Geography
University of Cambridge
Downing Place


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Image 'Urban Bird' is reproduced with the permission from the artist © Polina de Mauny