Parrot Interpreter: Representation, Extinction and the Electronic Information Environment

Paul Carter


Humans, it seems, can’t get enough of parrots. Ethnography, folklore, psychology, and, of course, imaginative literature all offer copious evidence of our fantasy of living with, communicating with and even being parrots. The natural history of parrots and the cultural history of parrots present something of a conundrum: on the one hand, a massive destructiveness (illegal bird and feather trade, environment destruction, scientific collections); on the other, an often erotically inflected sympathetic identification leading to the production of new forms. It’s strange to realise that Europe is infested with a shadow population of captive and inbred budgerigars, whose numbers far exceed those remaining in the wild and who can never return to their origins. If, as our privileged other, our uncanny mimic and double, the parrot still fails to survive, what does this tell us about our economy of desire? It seems that to know is to consume and destroy; and that the apparent contrast between the operations of the rainforest loggers and bird-trappers and the sentimental representations and transformations parrot suffers in human society is overdrawn. How is this contradiction to be explained?


parrot; economy of desire; extinction; representation; electronic information environment

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