At the moment I have two core, on-going research projects.
1. Cultures of Interdependence and the Making of the Guide-Dog-Human Partnership
I am writing a transatlantic history of guide-dog-human partnership in twentieth century America and Britain through a close analysis of the practices and processes for produciing the constructive partnership between the blind user and the guide dog. It is my foundational premise that this interdependent relationship emerged and 'co-evolved' through specific, historical engagements between dogs and humans, sighted and non-sighted. It explores how over time these engagements became embodied in institutional practices, in training and breeding regimes developed by guide dog organisations, communicated in literary and televisual culture (for example, Blue Peter!), and of course in the private and public lives of blind people themselves. The project tracks how the guide-dog-human partnershp was assembled, performed and re/imaged over the course of the twentieth century at four principal sites: the guide dog school, the breeding colony, the public imagination and at the level of the individual.
This is an ambitous study. It draws upon cultural history, animal studies, disability studies, medical humanities and historical ethnography. As a further part of this project, I am drawing upon techniques from visual anthropology to explore the interpretative possibilities of film in capturing and analysisng the role of nonverbal communication and affect in guide-dog-human partnerships.
2. The Affective Politics of Dog Dirt and Disgust in Modern Britain
You could be forgiven to think that dog fouling and dog walking have no history. Yet over the past eighty years the rules and ettiquette governing this aspect of the human-dog dyad and their access to public space has changed considerably over time.
This project explores historical and recent shifts in the perceptions and management of dogs' toiletry habits to provide a lens upon significant changes in Birtish environments, social, culural and political life, and human-dog companion relations. It critically examines when, why, how and the different ways in which dog faeces came to be understood as 'dirt' (i.e. as 'matter-out-of-place'), the contexts in which the recent practice of 'scooping the poop' sprang from, and how dogs' association with dirt is mediated by the affect of disgust.
History reminds us that debates over dog faeces belong or who should clean-up are really the tip of a mostly submerged argument about power: who has the right to determine accepatble uses of public space and who has the right to determine what constitute risk and danger.