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Faculty Books: The Global Pigeon

June 07, 2013

Global-pigeon-cover

Around Washington Square these days, it's been all Hawk Talk, what with the first flight of a trio of red-tailed hawks that had hatched outside the window of John Sexton's office.

But perhaps no creature is more synonymous with urban life than another, less glamorous, bird: the pigeon.

Though commonly seen as an irritant, its relationship with its urban surroundings is a complex and long-standing one—in fact, one could write a book on the subject...which is what NYU sociologist Colin Jerolmack has done in his recently released The Global Pigeon (University of Chicago Press).

The work examines how society's complex and contradictory relationships with pigeons—from city campaigns to evict them to working-class and immigrant communities who breed and race them—offer insights into city life, community, culture, and politics.

Jerolmack, an assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies, considers these questions by drawing on extended participant observation in New York neighborhoods as well as ethnographic case studies in Berlin's Kreuzberg section, London's Trafalgar Square, Venice's Piazza, and South Africa's Sun City—home of the Million Dollar Pigeon Race.

"The pigeons that occupy our sidewalks never existed in the wild," he writes. "They are descendants of escaped domesticated pigeons that were imported to the United States, Europe, and elsewhere centuries ago. This is a book about how interactions with animals—pigeons, in particular—animate people's social worlds and their experience of the city."

Pigeons-flying

For more on the role pigeons play in New York City's immigrant communities, see this New York Times story on the subject: nyti.ms/1839UY4.

--James Devitt

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