“A Super Wild Story”: Shared Human–Pigeon Lives and the Questions They Beg
Qualitative Inquiry – Special issue “Concept as Method”, edited by Hillevi Lenz-Taguchi and Elizabeth StPierre.
My family runs a small wildlife rehabilitation shelter at our home. Our patients are mostly birds. I once ended up sharing my home with a pigeon I had hand-reared as an orphaned nestling and who—through accidental events—became too habituated to leave us. As a consequence, I came to know people around the world in person and through social media who share their lives with pigeons and other wild birds for various serendipitous reasons. I am fascinated by these multispecies lives and have a particular interest in their unique productivity as indicated in Instagram images’ rhythmic hashtags as well as processes of surrogate pregnancy and motherhood. I have unexpectedly lost my #unlikelyfriend, and the personal motivation of this article is to explore what happened during our shared lives such that I came to mourn a pigeon so intensely.
The human–animal relations described here don’t fit into existing categories. The pigeons living with the humans are not conventional companion animals (i.e., pets), livestock, zoo animals, wild animals, or laboratory animals. The humans living with the pigeons are not animal trainers, zoo keepers, veterinarians, laboratory personnel, or farmers. Trying to explain the accidental or sudden encounters and shared lives between unusual couplings of species using preexisting knowledge, habits, or directions just doesn’t work. These lives are made up as they are lived. And rather than smoothing over differences using habituation, the shared lives begin to produce something new, difference, and to give different life in unexpected, serendipitous ways. In this way, we learn that habituation is an insufficient answer and makes us wonder what it was that the world asked us in the first place.