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

Winged Geographies:

Birds in Space and Imagination

22 - 23 April 2021

Department of Geography

University of Cambridge


Please scroll down to see the programme.


Click on the panel to watch the recordings of the talks.  


Winged Geographies is a two-day academic workshop which addresses 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?

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Water Birds
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Day One



Introduction and Welcome


The Moth and the Nightingale


Rupert de la Bère and the Cranwellian Cranes

Melanie Jackson, Department of Arts & Humanities, Bishop Grosseteste University, UK

The Cuckoo’s Leah: Birds, Naming, Belonging and Place in Early Medieval England

Michael J Warren, Independent Researcher, UK




Overhead and Underfoot: The Everyday Proximities of Urban Pigeons

Shawn Bodden, Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh, UK


Making Buildings Hospitable with Swifts

Ariane d’Hoop, Université Saint-Louis, Belgium


Wings in the City: Living with Urban Birds in Greater Paris

Alizé Berthier, Department of Geography, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France




'On the Wing': Experience and Perception in Falconry Practice

Sara Asu Schroer, University of Olso, Norway

Poetic Birds and Lyric Flights in the Age of the Anthropocene

Clara Dawson, Department of English & American Studies, University of Manchester, UK


Birds as Intermediaries: a Reading of Aristophanes’, ‘The Birds’

Jeremy Mynott, University of Cambridge, UK


Angels have Bird Wings

Roger Wotton, Division of Biosciences, University College London, UK

Day Two



Displaying Displacement: Exhibiting Extinct Birds and Their Ecosystems in Natural History Museums


Legless Birds and Toneless Chirps: Avian Creatures in Hong Kong's Urban Imaginations

Fiona Law, Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong


Migration at the Limit: Mobile Birds Exploring the Edges of Life

Andrew Whitehouse, Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen, UK


Savage Magpies: Conceptualising the ‘New World’ through the Beak of a Toucan

Alex Lawrence, Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages, University of Oxford, UK


Lunch Break


Birds in the Shared Spaces of British Farms from 1960

Paul Merchant, National Life Stories, British Library, UK


The Changing Geographies of Human-Starling relations in the Shared Spaces of the Anthropocene

Andy Morris, Department of Geography, Open University, UK


A Close-up View of Birds: Bird Reserve Management and the Shaping of Human/Avian Relations, circa 1940-75

Sean Nixon, Department of Sociology, University of Essex, UK




The Exploitation and Veneration of Birds: Past, Present and Future

Rebecca Jewell, Artist and Printmaker, UK


Centuries of Crafted Bird Lines Face Logo Times

Susan Clayton, Université Paris Diderot, Université Paris VII, France


Falling Birds

Helena Hunter, Independent Researcher, UK


For the Birds? Rehabilitating Animals, Rehabilitating Animality at Chicken Sanctuaries

Heather Rosenfeld, University of Wisconsin, USA


Matt Howard, poet and conservationist, UK


Reflection on the workshop

Philip Howell, University of Cambridge

The Key Speakers

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.




Theatre Maker, UK

Due to the current restriction, we sadly need to cancel this event. The plan is run the performance in September/October 2021. 


Tom is a theatre maker based in Bristol. He creates work through award-winning theatre company, MECHANIMAL.


The company’s work presently focuses on exploring narratives of biology and climate change. 

At Winged Geographies Tom will be presenting Zugunruhe, a show exploring the incredible migration journey of a marsh warbler. The performance received a Herald Angel award for excellence at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018.

Department of Geography
University of Cambridge
Downing Place


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