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Why Not the City?: Urban Hawk Watching and the End of Nature

Christian Hunold

Keywords: human-animal relations; field birding; multispecies ethnography; nature/ culture; urban wildlife

Abstract

This multispecies ethnography of red-tailed hawks and of the humans who observed and cared for them investigates everyday engagement with nature and culture in an urban setting. The proliferation of anthropogenic biomes and their attendant human-animal relations is one of the defining social-ecological features of our day. This transformation has caused many ecological disasters but has also created some opportunities, including for thinking more imaginatively about what it means to protect urban nature. Through their activities, interactions, and travels the hawks questioned where belongings are drawn, prompting humans to debate how the city does, can, and should include other animals. And by monitoring the hawks’ activities, the hawk watchers learned to imagine how things might be different if people acted as if the hawks had chosen to live in the city for reasons that made sense to them, if not necessarily to humans.

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