Thesis title - ''Critical anthropomorphism' and multi-species ethnography: an investigation into animal behaviour expertise'.
I study people who study animals, and I’m interested how we know what we think we know about other species. Different schools of thought have different ideas about the nature of animal minds, how they are best investigated, and to what ends. My PhD research explores the ontological, epistemological and social politics of animal behaviour expertise as it is practiced in diverse settings. I compare two seemingly divergent case studies, which nonetheless share a common belief in the ‘innate’ ability of humans to read and interpret the behaviour of other species. One is the teaching of horse behaviour and communication in a rural organisation that offers “Equine-Assisted Personal Development”; and the other explores a science-based animal welfare methodology called Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA). I follow its development for use as a welfare assessment tool for laboratory mice at a UK university.
I am currently investigating themes such as animal subjectivity, ‘anthropomorphism’, agency, relationality, the role of science and the politics of touch and embodiment. I have a particular interest in multi-species ethnography, and have run workshops in how the experience of nonhuman animals might be more closely attended to using somatic-emotional experience, sensory methods, and techniques taken from performance training.