Théophile Robert

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Aberdeen, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10027

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Robert, Theophile (Aberdeen, U. of) "Making a place sing: bird-walking and bird-human relations in China"

THEOPHILE ROBERT, then a graduate student at University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom, received funding in August 2020 to aid research on “Making a Place Sing: Bird-walking and Bird-human Relations in China,” supervised by Dr. Andrew Whitehouse. In contemporary China, some city dwellers, often elderly males, adopt and raise birds. They often walk the birds and teach them to sing. Walking the bird in parks aims to make them exercise and learn to sing properly. While these practices seem uneventful, they reflect a longer history of human and bird relationships. As China becomes more and more anthropogenized, we find correlating historical material that discuss how to adapt landscapes in urban environments to welcome birds, and how a culture of caging songbirds emerges to bring in a lost soundscape and liveliness in the intimacy of the home. As such, the grantee tried to understand how the transformation of the landscape brought about these kinds of hybrid relationships between humans and birds. As China has seen a wave of unprecedented urbanization, elderly people who often lived in mixed landscapes, between rural and urban, are bringing back elements of environments that have disappeared from daily life. Birds in China, in this sense, hold a special place as companion animals: as landscape are relentlessly altered by modern forms of development, they are an example of how people negotiate multispecies boundaries, bringing back and nurturing life into daily routine.