More-than-“bird”: Cultivating more-than-categorical attentiveness among Israeli practitioners of bird language

Ariel Appel, Nurit Bird-David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bird language is an emerging practice among nature-connection enthusiasts in which practitioners strive to comprehend the signals emitted by birds and other nonhuman beings. This practice shares much with contemporary academic interests in more-than-human sociality and foregrounds relational ways of knowing. Beyond merely classifying birds as communicative and social beings, the practice of bird language involves cultivating instinctive attentiveness to their presence, subjective faculty, and relatability. Fieldwork among Israeli practitioners illustrates immersive processes of becoming in-the-world with others, emphasizing passionate immersion, nonsymbolic interaction, and sensuous experience over detached observation, symbolism, and categorical knowledge. In this process, relationality becomes ingrained, intuitive, and prerational, a disposition of engaging the world by relating rather than classifying. However, we also observe that both relational and categorical modes of attention are temporary, reversible, complementary, and contextual. We argue for more nuanced ethnology of the dynamic interplay between relational and objectivist/categorical modes of attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-621
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. American Ethnologist published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Anthropological Association.


  • animism
  • bird language
  • embodiment
  • more-than-human
  • relationality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'More-than-“bird”: Cultivating more-than-categorical attentiveness among Israeli practitioners of bird language'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this