To Think Like a Bird

Bente Sundsvold


The film depicts a single woman, Aud, in her efforts to rebuild an abandoned eider rookery in the Vega Archipelago on the coast of Northern Norway. Eider down harvesting was previously a common practice of the coastal northerners, and the bird was considered holy. The practice is a fascinating example of domestication based on reciprocity between two species: The islanders make nests and build shelters for their seasonal guests; the birds pay “the rent” by leaving behind a wisp of eider down, the most precious duvet filling. The film shows Aud’s approach to a mission doomed impossible, by both traditional harvesters and scientists, to accustom wild eiders to human activities.

The film was part of PhD project “Den nordlandske fuglepleie” (The Nordland Birdcare, Sundsvold 2015), where video camera was used to explore the practical dimensions of accustom wild eiders to humans. Grasseni’s approach “enskillment of visions” (2005, 2011) was an inspiration, but whereas Grasseni put emphasis on the human perception of the animal, the video camera became a tool for an etho- ethnographic approach, putting emphasis on performativity in order to explore the relation building between man and bird.


co-domestication; eider down harvesting; Vega Archipelago;

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ISSN: 2535-437X 

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