FALCONRY: A GLOBAL CULTURAL PRACTICE
Another seminar, starting from October 2015, will inscribe falconry in the context of global studies. The topic of the relationship between man and bird will be treated as a "wandering", transcultural element that can be traced in diverse cultures of the world. The research and analysis will focus on tracing the networks of falconry borrowings and inspirations, showing how this heritage may serve as a common denominator among diverse cultures of the world. READ MORE>>>
FALCONRY: MAN/BIRD RELATIONSHIP
Since January 2014, a unique experiment is carried on at the College of Liberal Arts, University of Warsaw: a class dedicated entirely to falconry understood as a form of cultural heritage.
The first seminar, between February and June 2014, was dedicated to the contextualization of falconry in the context of anthrozoology (human/animal studies). READ MORE>>>
LISBON, FEBRUARY 2015
I've been studying the Portuguese falconry treatises. The fact that they come so late to this shows that their peripheral condition may be traced as early as in the late Middle Ages. Yet the Portuguese falconry is very persistent in time. They have, as I already mentioned on this blog, an interesting book on this topic produced in the first half of the XVII century. Even later on, they have an important center of falconry in Salvaterra de Magos, where the Portuguese king is among the last European monarchs to receive the falconry masters from Valkenwaard in Brabant and where he gladly stores the gyrfalcons offered as a present by the king of Denmark, proud of his dominion over Iceland.
What I would like to know is the relationship between the treatise of Pero Menino and the knowledge gathered from the Mediterranean travels of Adelard of Bath. The character of his treatise, concentrated on the illnesses of the birds, comes very close to the concise program of Adelard's text, yet the philological traditio of this text (given mainly by Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcelos and by its not less illustrious editor, Rodrigues Lapa, in the beginning of the 20th century) apparently doesn't put in evidence such a connection. Lesser commentators, such as Mário Martins, try to find a suitable context for Pero. Nonetheless, perhaps because of a general lack of erudition, he doesn't manage to come closer to the matter than just evoking Speculum by Vincent de Beauvais or Albertus Magnus. (There is nonetheless a more recent, English speaking study by Carlos Almaça, I didn't manage to find it yet).
Apparently, the Portuguese didn't need to travel as far as Adelard for their Arabica studia or to enter in contact with the Islamic falconer expertise. Yet the cultural frontier between them and the Moroccans seems impermeable. There is hardly any falconry to break through this frontier, except for the appreciation given to falcão tagarote or falcão-da-berbéria, a smaller subspecies of Falco peregrinus. The Portuguese crusade on the western shore of Africa didn't provoke the same phenomena of exchange that marked either the European presence in Syria or the Sicilian court of Frederic the Great. There is no Portuguese Fulk to call any Usama ibn Munkidh "his brother" - or is the Syrian context simply better known than this one? The previous knowledge, the contacts that must have preceded such an event as the Portuguese intervention in the Battle of the Four Kings ("a jornada de África" or "desastre de Alcácer Quibir" as it is called here, with no attention payed to its importance or consequences in the history of Morocco) became completely obliterated from the national memory. Or am I somehow wrong in this interpretation?
WHY DOES FALCONRY MATTER?
The debate on human/animal relationships and the quest for post-human culture
What is falconry, if we regard it in the global landscape of the contemporary culture? What is its real value? Why does it really matter? What can it bring to the relevant debates in the present day's intellectual context? How can we, as the falconer community, contribute to the enrichment and the diversification of the world culture of our times? READ MORE >>>
OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS ON FALCONRY
"Na uczcie mięsożerców. O transhumanistycznym potencjale relacji człowieka i ptaka" ["Meat-eaters' banquet. On trans-humanistic potential in the relationship of man and bird"], Jednak Książki, nr 2/2014, p. 25-37. ISSN 2353-4699
The main topic of this essay, Mediterranean traditions of falconry (highly valued both by the Christians and the Muslims), becomes a key to reconsider the awkward problem of man as a meat-eater, problem that opens – according to Agamben's suggestion – a double perspective of pre-humanity and post-humanity. The predatory nature of man brings him close to other predatory species, such as falcons and hawks. On the other hand, eating meat becomes object of manifold restrictions inside the boundaries of the cultured condition of man. While the religious orthodoxies establish qualitative and temporal restrictions on meat consumption (such as categories of kosher, halal, etc., as well as the required periods of fasting), the mystics seek the companionship of a falcon, possibly not only as a paradigm of ascension towards the heavens, but also of unstoppable, uncontrolled voracity that may lead beyond the cultured boundaries and guide the man longing for extra-cultural spontaneity, so highly prized in Zen, but also in Sufism. Falcon, that can be tamed, but not completely domesticated, remains a creature at the frontier between culture and nature, transcending both zones. At the same time it may become a spiritual companion guiding the man in his quest for the divine. This is why the relationship between man and bird may hide a trans-humanistic potential that still remains unexplored.
“Mediterranean Falconry as a Cross-Cultural Bridge: Christian – Muslim Hunting Encounters”, Birthday Beasts’ Book. Where Human Roads Cross Animal Trails, Cultural Studies in Honour of Jerzy Axer, Katarzyna Marciniak (ed.), Warsaw, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies “Artes Liberales”, 2011, p. 161-170. ISBN 978-83-928972-9-3
"Falconry as Intangible Heritage: A Universe of Values", International Journal of Falconry, Summer 2012, pp. 38-43. ISSN 2080-6779
International Conference "Falconry – its influence on biodiversity and cultural heritage in Poland and Europe", Supraśl, 16-17.10.2015.
My comment on this event:
Falconry: from cultural heritage to biodiversity and vice versa.
My presentation at this conference:
A falconry lesson. The experience of introducing falconry into a transdisciplinary curriculum of studies
Presentation of the experimental transdisciplinary seminar „Falconry: man/bird relationship” realized at the University of Warsaw in 2014. I'll speak about the problems and open questions concerning the inscription of the falconry lore into the academic institution, teaching practice and production of knowledge. Is it possible to actually teach falconry at the university? In what sense? To what kind of curriculum of studies could it contribute? What academic frameworks can admit such an initiative? What kind of outreaching activities could accompany it? (f.ex. involving secondary schools, institutional, social and entrepreneurial partners, general public, etc.).
The presented experience has been realized in the college of liberal arts; I'll thus discuss the possible connection between falconry and the concept of liberal education. It has been financed in the framework of a pilot transdisciplinary program fostered in the institutional context connected essentially with the humanities. The target is thus to transform such an experiment into a permanent element of the academic institution. Such a task rises several questions and requires addressing several issues in agonistics (the art of dealing with the confrontation between opposed ideological stances and groups of interest, such as f.ex. hunters vs defenders of the animal rights), logistics and transdisciplinary collaboration (forming transdisciplinary teams among students, professors, researchers).
Falconry Festival, Abu Dhabi
International Conference on Falconry, organized by the New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, 13.12.2014. In the framework of the 3rd International Festival of Falconry.
My key-note: Falconry and the birth of science between East and West: Adelard of Bath