The Whiteness of Birds

Nicholas Mirzoeff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay frames the 2020 Central Park bird-watching incident, in which a white financial analyst called police on a Black bird-watcher, in the context of histories of settler colonialism, extraction, and white supremacy. Situating ornithology as a white way of seeing, it considers the extermination and extinction of birds in terms of fugitivity, necrography, and eugenics, engaging the work of Audubon and the collection and display of birds at the American Museum of Natural History. It closes with a reflection on the Assembly of Birds in Aotearoa New Zealand, as depicted by painter Bill Hammond, and the work of decolonizing extinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-137
Number of pages18
JournalLiquid Blackness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • bird-watching
  • birds
  • fugitivity
  • John James Audubon
  • racial capitalism
  • whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Cultural Studies


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