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Publication - Dr Merle Patchett

    The Biogeographies of the Blue Bird of Paradise

    From Sexual Selection to Sex and the City


    Patchett, M, 2019, ‘The Biogeographies of the Blue Bird of Paradise: From Sexual Selection to Sex and the City’. Journal of Social History, vol 52., pp. 1061-1086


    This article takes as its starting point an encounter with a preserved
    blue bird-of-paradise skin. Though rare, the bird became wildly famous
    after it perched atop the head of Carrie Bradshaw during Sex and the City: The Movie. However, where in the movie the bird-skin acted as Carrie’s something blue,
    I mobilize it in this article as a “telling example” of
    near-extinction. This is because the blue bird-of-paradise is but one of
    the millions of Paradisaea that were hunted, traded, shipped,
    and lusted after since their earliest forms of commodification. And as
    the theory of sexual selection confirms, biographical entitlement cannot
    be assigned to a singular agent in the blue bird-of-paradise’s story,
    which is why this article will chart its biogeographies: from New Guinea
    rainforests to New York streets. Here, instead of tracing the blue
    bird-of-paradise’s individual commodity biography, it becomes an act of
    tracing and placing the bird-skin within the life and death worlds of
    human-animal relations that produced, mobilized, and maintain(ed) it as a
    commodity over time and space. In doing so, the article makes two
    important contributions to the field of social history. First, by
    conceptually focusing on the relations that produce lives, things, and
    worlds, it challenges the certainty that anchors the narration of
    biographies to the singular and anthropocentric embodiment of “a life.”
    Second, mapping the biogeographies of a “lively” commodity, such as a
    preserved bird-of-paradise, offers the opportunity of highlighting the
    significant role so-called natural species and histories can play in
    shaping human histories.

    Full details in the University publications repository