Accepted paper:

From collecting to protecting birds: paradigmatic shift in birdwatchers’ attitude to nature

Authors:

Dan Podjed (ZRC SAZU)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents ethnographic research of birdwatchers that are known for their tendency to “collect” bird-sights, and structure and order them into neatly organized categories – taxonomic groups. It is also explained how and why in the 1990s an unusual shift occurred from structuration of nature to its protection and understanding of its complexity.

Paper long abstract:

Birdwatchers are known for their intrinsic tendency to “collect” bird-sights, and order them into neatly organized categories – taxonomic groups. But is it really like that? Author of the paper, who carried out his ethnographic research in the Slovenian birdwatching association, realized that in the 1990s there happened a shift from structuration of nature to its protection and understanding of its complexity. This shift was not gradual; it was rather a gestalt moment, when members of the association started to perceive birds and nature from a different angle – from a holistic or ecological point of view, from which “we are a part of nature, and we are therefore responsible for it” as it was explained by a birdwatcher. Such a shift, which was demarcated by leaving of the association’s founding “father”, who was the main force behind initial “catalogization” of Slovenian birds in 1970s and 1980s, is connected to transition from structuralism to post-structuralism as a world view. Basic assumptions of structuralism are namely order, hierarchy, structure and organization, while post-structuralism is based on complexity, fluidity, holism and networks. These assumptions are incommensurable and cannot coexist in one organization. Therefore the radical transformation on micro-level (“revolution” as some informants referred to it) occurred, and made birdwatchers perceive the natural world in a different way. They still watch birds, but they do not see them as distant objects, which have to be “collected” and organized. They see and understand them as a part of a complex whole, which includes other animals, plants and also humans – including observers themselves.

panel W023
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