"Offering a rare and intimate account of anxieties that can proliferate in encounters with animal Others, Pigeon Trouble will certainly become a canonical text in the emergent interdisciplinary tradition of multispecies ethnography."—Cultural AnthropologyPigeon Trouble chronicles a foreign-born, birdphobic anthropologist's venture into the occult craft of pigeon shooting in the depths of Pennsylvania's anthracite coal country. Though initially drawn by a widely publicized antipigeon shoot protest by animal rights activists, the author quickly finds himself traversing into a territory much stranger than clashing worldviews—an uncanny world saturated with pigeon matters, both figuratively and literally.
"This spectacular account of a remarkable event opens into a larger philosophical consideration of mass cultural identity production. Hoon Song reveals how the animal-based rhetoric of a pigeon shoot connects it to discourses with broad cultural significance. I know of no other book that combines so effectively the elements of ethnography, cultural studies, media event analysis, and contemporary discourse on animals."—John Dorst, University of Wyoming
What transpires is a sustained meditation on self-reflexivity as the author teeters at the limit of his investigation—his own fear of birds. The result is an intimate portrayal of the miners' world of conspiracy theory, anti-Semitism, and whiteness, all inscribed one way or another by pigeon matters, and seen through the anguished eyes of a birdphobe. This bestiary experiment through a phobic gaze concludes with a critique on the visual trope in anthropology's self-reflexive turn.
An ethnographer with a taste for philosophy, Song writes in a distinctive descriptive and analytical style, obsessed with his locale and its inhabitants, constantly monitoring his own reactions and his impact on others, but always teasing out larger implications to his subject.
Hoon Song is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota.