The Unwelcome Crows: Hospitality in the Anthropocene by Thom van Dooren

Thom

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As their common name implies, House Crows (Corvus splendens) stick pretty closely to people. So much so that there are no known populations living independently of us. You might say that, in so far as these birds have a ‘natural environment’, we’re it.

This lecture will focus on a small population of roughly 30 house crows in the town of Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands, likely all descendants of two birds that arrived by ship in the mid 1990s. In 2014, after 20 years of peaceful co-existence, the government of the province of South Holland began the process of eradicating this population, worried that they may one day become a pest or threat to biodiversity. Just across the water from Hoek van Holland is the Port of Rotterdam – Europe’s largest port – and an ‘engine’ for the global patterns of production, trade and consumption that are today remaking our world, ushering in what many are calling the ‘Anthropocene.’ Focusing on these crows and this port – in a way that is attuned to the broader placetimes that constitute our present – this lecture will seek a more situated way into the relatively abstract notion of the Anthropocene. Working through the lens of ‘hospitality’, it explores the ways in which other species are made welcome – or not – in the places that we call our own.

Telling the story of this little group of birds in a way that holds this port and its impacts in the frame, this lecture will ask how we might be required to rethink our responses to, to learn to live with, others in this difficult time.

This lecture is the second in a series organised by the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network, and funded by the Institute for the Advanced Study of the Humanities.Tickets for will be available soon.

Thom van Dooren is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and co-editor of the international open-access journal, Environmental Humanities. For periods of 2014, 2015 and 2016 he will be a Humboldt Research Fellow at the Rachel Carson Centre, Munich. His most recent book is Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Colombia UP: New York, 2014). www.thomvandooren.org