bats and gentrification in deptford: a walk 30.09.14

Bat detection is a practice undertaken by ecologists, conservationists and enthusiasts. In it, electronic devices are used to detect the ultrasound bats use to echolocate. The simplest to use of these – the heterodyne – mixes down ultrasound to make it audible to human hearing. This form of detector is favoured by hobbyists and beginners as it provides what is closest to sensory experience of a hidden layer of more-than-human activity, present in the city as well as rural areas.

The proposal is to go on a short bat walk in New Cross/Deptford, and attempt to find some bats using these devices. This will allow us to explore just one way simple electronics can bring to life different activity in the city. More than this though – it might also provide another angle with which to view the economic and social processes that are transforming it. The behaviour of bats appropriation of crevices, roofs and other spaces by bats could be viewed as having resonances with other practices of occupation and co-option. Bats are recurring figures in narratives about urban development and building work, particular in the local media. As a protected species, the presence of bats can complicate and delay construction work, and the question of whether bats use a certain property can be a key dispute between developers and local people. In turn, this protection – in practice intermittent and inconsistent – raises questions regarding the relationship between vulnerability and value, and the forces acting on them both.

We’ll meet outside the Dog and Bell pub on Prince Street in Deptford at 7pm, Tues 30th Sept and go from there on a short walk using the bat detectors to explore the green and built spaces surrounding it. Most probably the walk will end in a pub or other warm space to give us a chance to talk further about our experiences and the thoughts they might prompt. If it is raining heavily, we may cutrail the walk early and go to the pub for discussion – we might be willing to endure the rain, but the bats most likely will stay home!

Suggested reading:
Mason and Hope 2014 ‘Echoes in the Dark: Technological Encounters with Bats’ Journal of Rural Studies 33 (107-118)
Bird Rose 2012 ‘Cosmopolitics: The Kiss of Life’ New Formations No. 76

Further texts and links:
Bat Conservation Trust website –
BCT on bat detectors:
London Bat Group –
Natalie Jerimjenko – Bat Billboard –
August – PhD thesis on ‘The Social Structure, Ecology and Pathogens of Bats in the UK’
Coetzee – The Lives of Animals
Diamond ‘The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy’ in Diamond, Cavell, Wolfe et al. The Philosophy of Animal Life.unnamed



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