Wildlife and urban governance: how pigeons became falcon food in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Authors: John-Henry Pitas*, University of Maryland - Baltimore County
Topics: Animal Geographies, Cultural and Political Ecology, Urban Geography
Keywords: urban, governance, political ecology, wildlife, biopolitics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom E, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the emerging paradigm of the socio-ecological city, wildlife play complicated roles, including as ecosystem service providers, migrants, invasives and pests. These modes of encounter are shaped by ecological knowledge and its internalization in urban imaginaries and governance. This paper considers one of the most ubiquitous urban nonhumans: the rock pigeon (Columba livia) and its contentious relationship with urban governance. I illustrate how changing forms of governance have resulted in shifting perspectives of pigeons, specifically from a health risk to a vital part of the urban ecosystem. This new understanding of pigeons as in-place in the city revolves around the resurgence of charismatic Peregrine Falcon (Falco perigrinus) populations. Ecological discourses posit pigeons as an important food source for falcons, making these former outlaws in-place as falcon food. I argue this signals the emergence of new urban political rationalities which revolve around ecology, and the notion of the socio-ecological city. These ecological political rationalities hold new power, to not only govern life itself as many scholars have already observed, but as the case of pigeons illustrates, to go beyond the threshold of life, and govern how wildlife can and should die or be consumed.

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