Eben Kirksey is a permanent faculty member in Environmental Humanities at UNSW Australia and a Visiting Research Scholar at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the editor of The Multispecies Salon and the author of Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, both also published by Duke University Press.
A multitude of exotic animals lives within homes and jungly backyards of Florida. Flexible strategies for accumulating and selling valuable animals has helped countless Floridians adapt to sweeping changes in political and economic landscapes. Some kinds of valuable critters, like snakes, resist the conditions of their existence in human households. Other animals, some individual birds in particular, have become flexible persons in multispecies families. These animals are temporarily incorporated into the familial sphere, folded into relationships involving love and care, only to be abandoned amid major life changes or sold on the open market as commodities. Pets are required to follow human rules, to fit within our way of life, even adopt our language and social norms. But as multispecies families break down—with major life events like a divorce, a lost job, or a child headed away to college—animals often escape, giving rise to emergent ecological communities.