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Accepted Paper:

Seagulls in the Anthropocene: herring gulls' urban occupation as an act of political resistance  
Theophile Robert (University of Aberdeen)

Short abstract:

Herring gulls occupy cities in the United Kingdom. From Aberdeen, I propose we look at gull occupation and exploitation of human environments as acts of resistance to humans, as gulls are confronted with drastic changes in the composition of their environments and, hence, ways of life.

Long abstract:

Herring gulls populate many cities in the United Kingdom. They are often demonised and hated: gulls trash cities, steal food, occupy place. In Aberdeen, “scurvies”, as they are called, roam everywhere around the city. They are pests, but are defended by the Wildlife Act: hence, enjoy relative peace from humans who nonetheless consider them “nuisance birds”.

In this paper, I look at seagulls from the framework of multispecies anthropology and environmental history, from the viewpoint of the gulls, by reframing the seagull colonization of the inland narratively. Originally a bird living in cliffs on coastal areas, they relocated in inland environments, particularly cities and wastelands. On the other hand, their primary environment, as well as primary source of food, became less and less available as human exploitation grew, all the while humans produced more and more waste that they could exploit for their own need.

Looking at the interactions between humans and gulls in Aberdeen, where seagulls often directly interact with humans, I propose that we understand their “nuisance”, or occupation of cities, as a political move, where gulls try to reintegrate a world that has been partly taken away from them. By occupying cities, for which their former habitat was overexploited, seagulls became intricately tied with humans, being both subjugated and resisting human dominion. Hence, I argue stealing, attacking humans, or searching trash should be understood as political ways of resisting humans, who took their possibility of living by the sea.

Traditional Open Panel P071
Seabirds
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -