The Winged Geographies Group was founded in 2020 as a network to connect everyone who is interested in the historical and contemporary relationships between humans and birds. Our network is centred around a monthly blog and annual workshop.
The group's interests build on research on animal geographies, anthropogenic environmental change, and the exploration of resultant naturecultures, to foreground the historical and contemporary relationship between humans and birds.
Long perceived as icons of nature and the noumenal, with privileged access to the ethereal, birds are now read as auguries of the retreat or even death of nature, as canaries in the coalmine of the capitalocene. Birds are now in unprecedented retreat: in Europe alone there are almost 50% fewer birds today than three decades ago, as the growth of agriculture and urbanisation have sharply reduced suitable habitats and insect populations have dwindled. Where they have survived in a human-dominated world, birds have been fundamentally changed.
Even as their habitats have been degraded and curtailed, they have been trained to participate in wars, to deliver messages, bred for sport or entertainment, or used to decorate our homes, mere feathered furniture. But birds have also been cherished, sharing their mysterious musicality with delighted audiences, in animal acts involving partnership and collaboration and not simply human dominance. What is more, birds have adapted to life alongside humans, quickly becoming ‘pests’ and nuisances, or even biosecurity threats.
Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow
University of Cambridge,
Wolfson College, UK
Olga is a cultural and historical geographer interested in the politics and governance of the living and material world of urban environments. Her work contributes to inter-related discussions in historical and cultural animal geography, historical queer studies, and the history of late imperial Russia.
She is currently undertaking postdoctoral research funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Isaac Newton Trust under the title "Beastly St Petersburg: humans and other animals in imperial Russia" and working on her first monograph 'A city of familiar strangers: a queer history of St. Petersburg'.
Research associate and tutor in Media & Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, UK
Michael is a cultural historian with a particular interest in the place of nature in British modernity. He is currently working on a book for OUP called Listening to British Nature: Wartime, Radio and Modern Life, 1914-45. Recent publications explore the origins of public participation in scientific bird-watching and role of birdsong in BBC broadcasting during the Second World War.