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Title: On the wing : exploring human-bird relationships in falconry practice
Author: Schroer, Sara Asu
ISNI:       0000 0004 5360 4756
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is concerned with the relationships that develop between humans, birds of prey, prey animals and their environments in the practice of falconry. Falconry is a hunting practice in which humans and birds of prey develop a hunting companionship through which they learn to hunt in cooperation. Described by falconers as a way of life, falconry practice and the relationship to their birds take on a crucial role in their everyday lives. The research is based on fieldwork carried out over a period of three years largely in the UK, with shorter fieldtrips to Germany and Italy. Falconry practice raises many interesting questions about human-animal sociality and identity formation. Through the practice falconers learn how to 'lure' a bird into a relationship, as birds of prey cannot be forced to hunt and cooperate. When hunting the abilities of birds of prey are seen to be superior to those of the human being who becomes – if skilful enough – an assisting hunting companion. The careful attention necessary to establish a bonded relationship between falconer and falconry bird demands practices particular to falconry and involves a highly complex set of knowledge practices and methods. The establishment of this relationship depends on a fine balance between independence and dependence as well as wildness and tameness of the falconry bird that cannot be understood through conceptualising notions of 'the wild' and 'the tame' (or 'the domesticated') as opposites. Rather, the becoming of falcons and falconers through the practice allows moments of transformation of beings that resist familiar categories. This study of falconry challenges an anthropocentric mode of anthropological inquiry as it demands to open up the traditional focus of anthropology to also include nonhuman animals and to consider meaning making, sociality and knowledge production as co-constituted through the activities of humans and nonhuman animals. I focus on the practices involved in taming, training and hunting with birds of prey as well as in domestic breeding, arguing that it is important to see both humans and birds as well as predator and prey as active participants in mutually constitutive learning relationships. Focussing on processes of emergence in both becoming falconers and becoming falconry birds I develop the notion of beings-in-the-making, in order to emphasise that humans and birds grow in relation to each other through the co-responsive engagement in which they are involved. I further show how humans and nonhuman animals relate to the environment within which they engage, in which movements and forces of the weather play a central role. I use the term weathering to refer to the ways the weather influences the movements of human and nonhuman animals as well as being a medium of perception in which they are immersed. The landscape and the sky above are here not to be understood as two separate spheres divided by an interface but rather as caught up in a continuous process of transformation in which the lay of the land and the currents of the air are co-constituted. Finally, I suggest the perspective of creaturely ways to describe a mode of sociality that is constituted beyond the purely human sphere of interaction and to show that the sense of identity and belonging of both falconers and birds is not delineated by a fixed species identity but rather emerges out of the experiences and relationships that each living being develops throughout its life. Creaturely ways thus involves a focus on questions of ontogeny rather than ontology, which is crucial for understanding the mutually constitutive processes of meaning making, becoming and knowing in which falconers and falconry birds are involved. Through exploring the complex relationships involved in falconry practice and the consideration of humans and birds as active participants within them, this thesis makes an original contribution to anthropological studies of human-animal relationships. It further contributes to the development of a notion of more-thanhuman sociality that reaches beyond the idea of the social as confined to members of the same species. Moreover, the study contributes to the anthropology of learning and enskilment through analysing processes of knowledge making in their constitutive influence on the development of human and nonhuman ways of becoming. It further contributes to studies on the perception of the environment through considering the practitioner's perception and experience of the weather and currents of the air as they interplay with the ground below. Finally, this study makes a contribution to the as yet little studied field of 'modern' hunting practices and suggests a more nuanced approach of understanding the relationships of predator and prey they involve.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: International Rotary Foundation ; Falconry Heritage Trust ; Deutsche Falkenorden ; University of Aberdeen ; Radclife-Brown/Sutasoma Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Falconry ; Human beings ; Birds