Chair: Atiba Pertilla (GHI Washington)
Jeannie Shinozuka (Washington State University):
Biotic Borders: Globalization & Asian Biological Invasions, 1910s-2023
Asian giant hornets and spotted lanternflys emerge from a longer history of desire for Asian exotics and the attending anti-Asian racism directed against foreign plant and insect immigrants. This talk focuses on the Asian giant “murder” hornet and the spotted lanternfly, placing them within an historical context of desire for Asian exotics and the fear of foreign species invasions that began in the United States in the late nineteenth century. These fears at the turn of the twentieth century, which included the (Asian) San Jose scale and chestnut blight, led to plant quarantine and other forms of regulation against foreign plant immigrants from Asia in particular. Mass media hysteria over the presence of Asian giant hornets in the Pacific Northwest and spotted lanternflys in the East is tied to this early history. However, in the twenty first century, the rapid spread of the spotted lanternfly in the East reflects changes in globalization and the rise of China. Many citizen-scientists have responded by publicizing squishing and crushing of spotted lanternflys. The current response to Asian biological invasions thus invokes familiar racialized responses from the turn of the twentieth century in an era of a changing climate.
Daniele Valisena (University of Liège):
The Wild Around the Corner. Italian Immigrants’ Feral Ecologies in New York City, Paris, and Naples during the Great European Migration (1880-1920)
On December 1, 1919, Sam Fenunella, an Italian immigrant living in Brooklyn, NYC, was facing a trial at Kings County courthouse. He was contested several minor crimes, all of which concerned his grazing animals freely roaming around Flatbush area. “Goat is goat –– said to a stupefied judge Mr. Fenunella –– and they do want to eat. My pair just strayed off to the hospital and filled up. That’s all”. Although goats eating grass in a city hospital yard seemed natural for Fenunella, it was radically unnatural for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle journalists who reported the news as well as for most of their readers. The moral and physical hygiene of proper NYC citizens was threatened by such behavior, which also challenged property laws and the axiom of modern cities as places where non-human dwellers are either pets or pests.
With this presentation, Dr. Valisena illustrates migrants’ multispecies ecologies in New York City, Paris, and Naples during the age of Mass Migration. From their liminal urban settlements, migrants develop original ecological interpretations of their environments in alliance with various non-human actors such as gardening in empty lots, collecting waste, bones, and rags, hunting birds and hares in parks, gathering spontaneous herbs on the sidewalks, keeping chickens, sheep, and goats in their yards, and then letting them roam around freely.
Building upon a vast series of newspaper articles, court records, oral history sources, migrants’ autobiographies, scientific and medical studies on urban hygiene, and migration surveys and reports produced by the U.S., French, and Italian Governments, Dr. Valisena shows the ways in which migrants forged multispecies alliances with various non-human subjects, thus performing a different kind of modern urbanism. Additionally, this research highlights the historical process through which modern urban planning, emerging ideas about urban hygiene, and new racist, gendered, and classist politics of space eradicated a century-long history of multispecies co-existence in urban environments in the Global North.