Urban Ecologies: University of Cambridge (European Research Council, 2021-2023)
Living with chickens is to ‘fall headlong into a mystery’ (Alice Walker, 2013) that opens questions of the nature of nature itself. The rise of urban hen-keeping has the potential to reshape urban imaginaries (Blecha and Leitner, 2014) through renegotiations of everyday performances that disrupt industrial food systems, economies and social life. Hen-keeping might be understood as a transformative personal, collective and worldly endeavour that foregrounds human-animal sociability, resists the agricultural industrial complex and has the potential to disrupt the anthropocentric flows of the city through a return to “the good life.”
There are two kinds of backyard hens: re-homed ex-farm hens and specialist breeds of hens. From 2005-2012, 200,000 hens were rehomed in the UK, and 5% of these were in London (Karabozhilova, 2012). The practice of backyard hen keeping has only grown in the face of ecological and environmental crises and increasing scrutiny of the ethics of eating animals. This project responds to changing demands on food systems, ecologies, and urban space, seeking to understand how non-human life is governed and regulated in cities.
Animals of the RGS: Royal Geographical Society/Wiley Digital Archives Fellowship (2021)
Earlier in 2021, I was fortunate to be awarded one of eleven Wiley Digital Archive Fellowships. This fellowship grants access to the Royal Geographical Society’s pre-1945 digitised collections. The RGS, in collaboration with Wiley, have digitised hundreds of thousands of items, hosted on an online platform (the Wiley Digital Archive).
In this fellowship, I am interested in human-animal histories of various kinds: (1) the use of animal labour in supporting expeditions; (2) friendships and collaborations between geographers and their companion animals; (3) interspecies conflict in encounters with animals along the way; and (4) geographers mapping discovered species, expanding our knowledge of the other-than-human world. Each of these human-animal histories offers interesting new ways of thinking about multispecies histories, but also in understanding geography and space as always more-than-human. Read more over on the blog.
More-than-human Metabolism (2020-present)
For animal scholars, metabolic thinking opens interesting ways to think about the ways that we eat animals, as well as what animals eat. Marxist metabolic rift is concerned with the relationship between humans and nature, and postindustrial metabolism is concerned with what humans eat and how we use and store that as nutrition. Bringing animals and their metabolism into this frame shifts how we can think about metabolism. I am currently working on two projects on more-than-human metabolism, the first in collaboration with Jonny Turnbull and Adam Searle on bovine metabopolitics, and the second as part of my Urban Ecologies work with Maan Barua on chickens.
Our collaborative bovine metabo-politics work has been published with CRASSH in 2021, and we recently gave a seminar at Brunel University. My galline urban metabolism work has also been published with CRASSH (with Jonny Turnbull), and I have further developed these ideas for a paper given at the University of Turku in 2021 and on The Animal Turn’s blog and podcast.
(dis-)Belonging Bodies: Academic Conferences (2017-present)
This is a collaborative project with Amelia Morris (POLSIS, University of Birmingham). Amelia and I have worked together since 2016, beginning with a piece for the feminist academic collective, on clean-eating, instagram, classism and veganism.
Between 2017 and 2018, we undertook interviews with academics working in UK Higher Education about their experiences of attending, presenting, and navigating academic conferences. From our interviews, it quickly became clear that the academic conference was a space not equally experienced by all academics. For marginalised scholars, the conference space heightened anxieties and discomfort around their bodies, leading to a self-disciplining of bodies. Inevitably, the extra preparations and discomfort led to exclusion for the conference space.
We have published from this research in Gender, Place, and Culture journal:
We have also published from this research at various events, including at a British Sociological Association event in 2019, and a teach-out during the 2019 strikes for Birmingham UCU.
In 2020, during the pandemic, I drew on our research on conferences to discuss how conferences might open up or reproduce exclusions in the online space. I wrote for Geography Directions, LSE Gender Blog and Post-Pandemic University Magazine. In 2021, I am hosting two sessions at the Royal Geographical Society’s annual conference on the futures of academic conference spaces from feminist perspectives, sponsored by the Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group.
Towards a beyond-human geography: veganism and multispecies worlds (2015-2020)
My doctoral thesis explores the the emergence and growth of beliefs, practices and organisation of animal activism and veganism in Britain. It is informed by interdisciplinary theory and practice across political philosophy, critical animal studies, and feminist and cultural geographies and argues for a ‘beyond-human geography’ centring ethico-political veganism.
Through archival research, interviews and multispecies ethnography, my thesis explores: friendship as both exclusionary power and a resistant way of life; how encounters with embodied vegan truths transform self, relationships and worlds; and how attempts to construct less violent multispecies space through ‘rescue’ might reimagine the futures we inherit. This work understands how animal activists and vegans navigate spatial, temporal and species differences and distances. To do this, it imagines and enacts ethically and politically imbued multispecies spaces of alterity to unthink ‘us’ and establish futures beyond trauma, by inhabiting the present in the mode of as if: as if some experiences were evocative of others; as if we already lived in ideal worlds.
I have published two papers from my doctoral work, with two further papers forthcoming. This research also forms the basis for my book, Veganism, Archives and Animals. You can find these on my writing page.
Animal Rights and Food Fights: The British Library Placement (2016-2017)
In 2016-17, I undertook a placement at the British Library, in the department of Contemporary Politics and Public Life, working with the archive of Richard D. Ryder to explore collaborative activism in animal rights in the contemporary history of the movement.
Since then, with Dr Rachel Tavernor, I have been working on curating an online exhibition of the This will be launching soon at the British Library’s Archiving Activism website. Find out more about this project on the British Library’s projects page and on the British Library’s blog.