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robertogreco : colinjerolmack   2

Molds and Totems: Nonhumans and the Constitution of the Social Self
"The role of nonhumans in social life has recently generated significant scholarly interest. The two main paradigms for explaining the sociological significance of nonhumans are constructivism and actor-network theory. We propose a pragmatist synthesis inspired by George Herbert Mead, demonstrating how interactions with nonhumans help constitute the social self—that is, the identity one constructs by imaginatively looking upon oneself as others would. Drawing upon observations of humans interacting with objects, animals, and nature, we identify two complementary ways that nonhumans organize the social self and enable people to experience group membership in absentia: (1) by molding how one is perceived by others and constraining alternative presentations of self and (2) by acting as a totem that conjures up awareness of, and feelings of attachment to, a particular social group. This formulation moves beyond constructivist claims that nonhumans reflect people’s self-definitions, and it offers a corrective to actor-network theory’s neglect of sociality."
nonhumans  totems  pragmatism  self  actor-networktheory  sociality  objects  animals  nature  georgeherbertmead  colinjerolmack  iddotavory  via:oddhack 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Pigeon Fliers of New York - NYTimes.com
"Once seemingly as commonplace on city rooftops as the iconic water tower, pigeon coops are now as scarce as the longshoremen known for building them — the mostly Irish and Italian men immortalized in representations of working-class New York like the 1954 film “On the Waterfront.”

Curious about this fading avocation, I started hanging out at a local pigeon supply store. It was there that I encountered Carmine Gangone, a retired plane cargo loadmaster, mulling whether to fork over $5 for a brown speckled hen. Noticing me, Mr. Gangone threatened to cut off my long, unkempt hair, before cracking a smile. Later he invited me to his roof, after one of the owners told me he was the best flier around.

Over the next three years, I spent hundreds of hours with Mr. Gangone and two dozen other pigeon fliers on rooftops in the outer boroughs. While Charles Darwin had long ago immersed himself in the working-class subculture of “pigeon fancying” for biological reasons (“On the Origin of Species” illustrates natural selection through an exhaustive genealogy of pigeon breeds), my interest was anthropological — I wanted to write a book about these men.

A year and a half ago, not long before my book was published, Mr. Gangone died. The last time I visited his home in Ozone Park, Queens, he was too frail to ascend the metal ladder to his rooftop coop. “My legs won’t carry me no more,” he said, “and they say my blood is too heavy.” Though Mr. Gangone acknowledged feeling “pretty lucky” to have lived 88 years, without his birds there was nothing to look forward to — “I just sit in this chair and relive it all.” Since his death, I’ve thought a lot about why it was that pigeons gave Mr. Gangone a reason to live.

Though already an octogenarian when I met him, Mr. Gangone still climbed to the roof of his townhouse every morning to “chase” his stock of 150 domesticated pigeons into the inky pre-dawn sky, where they would hurtle toward the clouds and then divebomb the elevated train in perfect unison as he waved his bamboo rod like a baton. He told me that his stock was like a family. I sometimes saw this otherwise phlegmatic man giggle and make kissy faces at chicks that awkwardly perched on his finger, and he lovingly prepared herbal remedies for pigeons that got sick."



"While Mr. Gangone may have gotten into pigeons because of a sheer fascination with animals, it was his social bonds with other fliers that gave meaning to these cross-species relations, and to the last years of his life. In explaining to me why he agreed to mentor Orlando, Mr. Gangone said, “I need people around here, it makes me want to come on the roof.” Rather than functioning as an escape from social pressures, Mr. Gangone’s coop opened up a new social world. It took me a while, but now I appreciate that it was through his birds that Mr. Gangone could still be somebody who mattered to other people."
via:anne  pigeons  animals  2014  colinjerolmack  carminegangone  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships 
august 2014 by robertogreco

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