birds of paradise

History and the birds of paradise: Surprising connections from New Guinea. Expedition 48(1)15-21, 2006.

How can a woman’s hat made in New York City (ca. 1915) and decorated with iridescent
bird of paradise plumes from New Guinea affect our understanding of history? What
relationships were responsible for its creation? What do such relationships reveal about New Guinea and its connections to the rest of the world? How might the characteristics of a natural species like the greater bird of paradise influence human history? These questions arose while I was conducting ethnographic research in the lowland interior
rain forests of southern New Guinea among the Yonggom people. The answers challenge how we think about history, including the commonly held view of New Guinea as a remote island that has remained isolated from the tides and currents of world history. They also suggest the importance of multispecies entanglement and the agency of birds and other natural species in relation to the unfolding of historical events, including the rise of international conservation efforts.







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