From pest to partner: rethinking the Australian White Ibis in the more-than-human city



Publication Details

McKiernan, S. & Instone, L. (2016). From pest to partner: rethinking the Australian White Ibis in the more-than-human city. Cultural Geographies, 23 (3), 475-494.


Calls to rethink our ethical and political responsibilities with nonhuman others abound recent work in cultural geography. Such work unpacks the more-than-human agencies reshaping and rematerialising our bodies and subjective knowledges. This article uncovers the coproduction of human knowledges and urban spaces by examining the problematic migration of the Australian White Ibis into Australian urban localities. We put forth a storied approach to human-ibis relations, capturing the multiple and situated experiences materialising our urban relations with the species. Drawing on ibis ethology, media narratives, personal and interviewee stories, we explore how ibis take part in the co-constitution of urban spaces and identities. In particular, we examine how the ibis as a pest narrative is mobilised and reproduced in public and media discourses that shape the species identity and influence modes of relating. Both the publics and our own personal intra-actions with ibis shed light on conceptions of nonhuman belonging, death and human desires for living-with. This article forwards a cosmopolitical approach to provoke a reconceptualisation of our ethical and political responsibility with urban ibis. We question the narrative of ibis-as-pest to forward ideas of living-with that provokes new modes of relating, uncomfortable for either party. Within these precarious relations, possibilities open for nonhierarchical modes of cohabitation, challenging our political and ethical responsibilities in living-with uncomfortable others.

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