The pigeon is the quintessential city bird. Domesticated thousands of years ago as a messenger and a source of food, its presence on our sidewalks is so common that people consider the bird a nuisance—if they notice it at all. Yet pigeons are also kept for pleasure, sport, and profit by people all over the world, from the “pigeon wars” waged by breeding enthusiasts in the skies over Brooklyn to the Million Dollar Pigeon Race held every year in South Africa.
Drawing on more than three years of fieldwork across three continents, Colin Jerolmack traces our complex and often contradictory relationship with these versatile animals in public spaces such as Venice’s Piazza San Marco and London’s Trafalgar Square and in working-class and immigrant communities of pigeon breeders in New York and Berlin. By exploring what he calls “the social experience of animals,” Jerolmack shows how our interactions with pigeons offer surprising insights into city life, community, culture, and politics. Theoretically understated and accessible to interested readers of all stripes, The Global Pigeon is one of the best and most original ethnographies to be published in decades.