Primary groups and cosmopolitan ties: The rooftop pigeon flyers of New York City

Colin Jerolmack

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article examines a group of working-class men who breed and fly pigeons from their rooftops in New York City. It explores how the flyers experience their neighborhoods through their animal practices and shows how ethnic whites transmitted this practice to non-whites. It also documents their gatherings at a pet shop, where the flyers campaign for status based on their birds' performance. These men form a distinct collective that is strongly rooted in their solitary animal practices but is given meaning largely through social interactions. Most community studies find conflict among different working-class racial-ethnic groups who share urban neighborhoods, but pigeon flying fosters solidarity among Italian, Hispanic, and African American New Yorkers of varying ages. The study highlights how animal practices can organize social relationships and connections to the environment and demonstrates that shared everyday activities can be as vital as ethnicity or class in primary group formation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)435-457
    Number of pages23
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 2009


    • Animals
    • Class
    • Community
    • Environment
    • Ethnicity
    • Primary group
    • Sociability

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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