This introductory chapter discusses a history of the knowledge that people create around diverse and fascinating animals, such as birds. With the goal of a symmetrical analysis of all forms of bird knowledge, this book refers to all people who know birds as “birders,” a term which usually means “birdwatcher.” A small but visible group of birders are scientists, more specifically known as “ornithologists.” Meanwhile, the word “knowledge” acts as the generic term for what people know about birds. The chapter recognizes three types of bird knowledge—vernacular, ornithological, and recreational—and uses them to illustrate broader issues such as interactions between vernacular knowledge and science, relations among colonial subjects and imperial authorities, the operation of race and honor among people, and the decolonization of colonial culture and scientific practice.
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