Flying Fox Exuberance in Worlds of Peril

Deborah Bird Rose

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Beautiful, persecuted, fragile, resilient: how flying foxes help us confront every big question facing life on earth today

‘I was called to flying-foxes. My research questions led me into multispecies ethnographic work involving wildlife carers and academically trained scientists in eastern Australia. The people I met were at the front line in the work of holding flying-foxes back from the edge of extinction. I continued to visit the north, and I revisited my notebooks from several decades of research with Aboriginal people. The research was exhilarating, and then again at times deeply disheartening. I was to encounter more passion, intimacy, cruelty, horror, complexity, generosity and wild beauty than I could ever have imagined. Living with flying-foxes, I came to understand, takes us straight to the heart of every big question facing Earth life in the 21st century.’

Show more
  1. Speaking of Love and Peril
  2. Meet the Pteropids
  3. Arts of Care
  4. Participation
  5. Nomads
  6. Ancestral Power
  7. The Vortex
  8. Cruelty and its Allies
  9. Fidelity


Deborah Bird Rose became kin, real kin, to flying foxes when a flying fox matriarch at Lingara named her as sister during her first period of serious study, called ethnography, with the people of Yarralin. That kinship—its ethics, responsibilities, corporealities, passions, and terrors—is embodied in this wonderful book. Rose entices us all to care about the often despised, sometimes loved, and now comprehensively threatened flying foxes of Australia. I am in her capacious hands, as she shows me the animals, the people, the trees, the flowers, the dry and the wet, and those who care and those who destroy. She does not fail me; she does not fail the flying foxes. Perhaps they have a materially better chance of a future because Rose was a flying fox woman, a human being who used the hard-earned power to tie together Aboriginal teaching and kinship, settler science, and everyday complexities of caring and responding to others of truly different kinds that is carried on by ordinary people. I love Rose’s work; I love this book. It proposes a still barely possible way to live together for flying foxes and people in the face of the killing of generations that pervades our times. This small situated refusal of killing, this small situated fulfilling of obligations, might ramify across our troubled times and places.

Donna J. Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz

Deborah Bird Rose’s last book is a message shimmering with the passion, intimacy, cruelty, horror, complexity, generosity and wild beauty she encountered responding to the call of flying foxes. It draws its reader to experience her passionate embrace of the ongoing-ness of life, her profoundly ethical "yes" to its reality as it bursts forth through abstract categories ensuring our pseudo-objectivity. It powerfully affirms knowledge as co-becoming, a commitment to become knowledgeable witnesses and responsible participants in the intricate mutualistic giving and receiving that make up earth life. A unique and vital legacy.

Isabelle Stengers, Université libre de Bruxelles

Shimmer is an inspiring and moving tour de force. Love, care, ethics, connectivity, and crucially non-innocence are the analytical-affective intentions with which Deborah Bird Rose experiences and makes us experience flying-foxes and the myriad blossoms they enable as they meet Aboriginal wisdom, science, the state, and the biosphere. Shimmer is a forceful affirmation of life pronounced as our worlds face many ends, but also—if we are with Deborah Bird Rose—not only. Reading this book, being inspired by it, has been an honor, an immense pleasure, and a complex beam of hope.

Marisol de la Cadena, University of California, Davis

Gifted to us at the precipice of her death, Deborah Bird Rose’s Shimmer embodies everything we have valued about her writing—its calm and uncompromised ethical compass; its fidelity to Indigenous worlds and their more than human kin; and its arts of care for forms of existence, here the majestic worlds of flying foxes, declared enemies of settler expansion. Shimmer will hold a precious place in her singular corpus.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Columbia University
Deborah Bird Rose (1946–2018) was a world-renowned anthropologist and leading figure in the emergence and shaping of the interdisciplinary environmental humanities. Over the course of a career spanning almost 40 years, Rose published many widely read, cited, award-winning and often-reprinted books, including Hidden Histories (1991), Dingo Makes Us Human (1992), Nourishing Terrains (1996), Country of the Heart (2002), Reports from a Wild Country (2004) and Wild Dog Dreaming (2011). She also edited numerous significant volumes, including Aboriginal Australians and Christian Missions (1988), Manifesto for Living in the Anthropocene (2015), and Extinction Studies(2017), and co-founded the journal Environmental Humanities. Through this work Rose made major contributions in a range of important fields: from the environmental humanities, and the anthropology of indigenous Australia, to extinction studies, animal and multispecies studies, and philosophies of ethics, justice, religion, temporality and place. Rose was a Fellow of the Australian Social Sciences Academy (ASSA) and was for most of her career based at the Australian National University (1995–2008) and Macquarie University (2008–2013).

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