Senses of being: The atmospheres of listening to birds in Britain, Australia and New Zealand

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Abstract

The human experience of places and their atmospheres is often bound up with the co-presence of other-than-human beings. In examining these experiences, this chapter draws on narratives received through the Listening to Birds project, which explores how people perceive and respond to bird sounds. Many narratives describe how people resonate with birds through sound, that is, how they attend to birds by listening as they go about their own activities. This resonance is integral to emplacement and a ‘sense of being’ and generates feelings of belonging, contentment and home. Listening to birds, it is argued, becomes focal to a whole bodily experience of the landscape. But when circumstances change so often do the bird sounds and here I explore responses to these changes, comparing the stories of people who have moved between the UK and Australia and New Zealand, nations with contrasting avifauna. These describe the sometimes alienating, sometimes thrilling initial experience of birds sounding ‘wrong’ or different and how people then learn to relate to the different sounds and atmospheres of a new home. I also explore the ways in which the sounds of the old homeland are remembered and what feelings this remembering stirs. These narratives are intensely personal but they describe aesthetic experiences of place and nation, defining and scrutinising how home should sound. Narrative representations, it is argued, are integral to experiencing place, an interaction that forges a sense of companionship with other species and with the landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring Atmospheres Ethnographically
EditorsSara Schroer, Susanne Schmitt
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherRoutledge
Pages61-75
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781315581613
ISBN (Print)9781472468338
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2017

Publication series

NameAnthropological Studies of Creativity and Perception
PublisherRoutledge

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  • Cite this

    Whitehouse, A. J. (2017). Senses of being: The atmospheres of listening to birds in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. In S. Schroer, & S. Schmitt (Eds.), Exploring Atmospheres Ethnographically (pp. 61-75). [5] (Anthropological Studies of Creativity and Perception). Routledge.