Sparrow Places: A Spectral Geography of the Decline and Conservation of the House Sparrow
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Whale, Helen L
We are living in an age of mass extinction; everywhere we look, something is disappearing. This dissertation presents a qualitative study of the decline and conservation of the house sparrow (passer domesticus), and the connections between this particular little bird and human notions of place and landscape. Bringing seemingly disparate literatures together, it works at an intersection between understandings of place, more-than-human geographies of species conservation, and literary and historical responses to bird decline and loss. Based on semi-structured interviews with individuals involved in RSPB house sparrow projects – together with photographs and fieldnotes – it explores lived experiences of house sparrow decline and conservation in the light of recent ‘spectral’ geographies of place and landscape. In the chapter stages, house sparrow absence/presence is empirically followed through a series of six ‘places’, both ‘real’ and ‘imagined’. In contrast to phenomenological geographies embracing straightforward binaries of absence and presence, it finds that ‘place’ in the context of house sparrow decline and experiences of sparrow decline themselves might best be understood through notions of haunting and spectrality. Overall, therefore, this study applies notions of the spectral to biodiversity conservation and the experiences of those involved with it.