The Wake of Crows

The Wake of Crows: Living and Dying in Shared Worlds, Columbia University Press: New York, 2019.

Winner of the 2021 Ludwik Fleck Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).

Available from 2022 in French translation, published by Actes Sud, Paris.

Crows can be found almost everywhere that people are, from tropical islands to deserts and arctic forests, from densely populated cities to suburbs and farms. Across these diverse landscapes, many species of crows are doing very well today: their intelligent and adaptive ways of life have allowed them to thrive amid human-driven transformations. Indeed, crows are frequently disliked for their success, seen as pests, threats, and scavengers on the detritus of human life. But among the vast variety of crows, there are also critically endangered species that are barely hanging on to existence, some of them subjects of passionate conservation efforts.

The Wake of Crows is an exploration of the entangled lives of humans and crows. Focusing on five key sites, Thom van Dooren asks how we might live well with crows in a changing world. He explores contemporary possibilities for shared life emerging in the context of ongoing processes of globalization, colonization, urbanization, and climate change. Moving between these diverse contexts, this book tells stories of extermination and extinction, alongside fragile efforts to better understand and make room for one another. Grounded in the careful work of paying attention to some very particular crows and their people, The Wake of Crows is an effort to imagine and put into practice a multispecies ethics. In so doing, van Dooren explores some of the possibilities that still exist for living and dying well on this damaged planet.


“A necessary and beautiful book, The Wake of Crows models the work of living responsibly inside both the humanities and the sciences in order to nurture still possible worlds. This book shows us what collaborative efforts to enact multispecies communities mean, and might yet mean, in the context of ongoing processes of extinction and extermination. Moving through diverse sites of human/crow encounter, it offers insights into the fragile, situated, ongoing, work necessary to cultivating ecologies of hope in troubled times.”
~ Donna Haraway, author of Staying with the Trouble, and When Species Meet

The Wake of Crows is a thoughtful and captivating book that opens our imagination. In this book van Dooren shows us that accepting the challenge to coexist with crows without dreaming that they will come to behave as a loyal and grateful companion species, might teach us priceless lessons at a time when we need to learn how to make room for many different, sometimes inconvenient, but so very interesting, others.”
~ Isabelle Stengers, author of In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism

“Writing from a personal and scholarly perspective, Thom van Dooren takes us on a deep dive into the human-crow relationship that both informs natural history and lays bare the importance of expanding our own ethics to value all of life and our wonderful connections to it.”
~ John M. Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science, University of Washington and author of Gifts of the Crow and Welcome to Subirdia.

Media coverage and discussion

Online Book Talk, The Greenhouse, University of Stavanger (2020), Thom van Dooren: The Wake of Crows.

Lydia Baan Hofman (2020) “Experimenteren met kraaien” (in Dutch), The Dutch Review of Books.

Mark Molloy (2020) Interview on New Books Network, podcast.

Elke van Riel (2019) “Hoe kraaien ons de wereld beter doen begrijpenVN, The Netherlands

Peter Sands (2019) Interviews for the Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre (ShARC) podcast, UK


Georges Chapouthier (2022), Dans le sillage des corbeaux, review of the French translation of The Wake of Crows for Pour la Science.

Eva Giraud (2022), “Ethical complexities and interdisciplinary pathways for animal studiesSociety & Animals

Kaeli Swift (2020), “The Wake of crows, reviewOryx, 54(5), 748–749

Nathaniel Otjen (2020), “The Wake of Crows, review” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Ben Garlick (2020), “The Wake of Crows, reviewcultural geographies