The EASE working group brings together academics and postgraduate research students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds across the University of Exeter (including anthropology, philosophy, sociology, geography, bioscience, psychology and animal behaviour) whose research and teaching interests explore and address human interactions with other living things.
Samantha is an Associate Professor in Anthropology, Programme Director for the MA and PhD programmes in Anthrozoology, and Director of EASE. Sam has fostered a passionate concern for the ethical treatment of other animals since early childhood when, after befriending some pigs on the farm where her grandmother worked, she became vegetarian and later, vegan. As a teenager, Sam was actively involved in the work of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and also spent several years working as a veterinary nurse and groom before embarking on an undergraduate degree at UCL as a mature student. Sam then worked in the marketing department of a publishing house where she had responsibility for her portfolio of equestrian magazines, before returning to UCL to undertake a PhD in Anthropology. Sam’s doctoral research explored the diverse relationships between humans and a variety of nonhuman species (including sheep, horses, dogs, cows, foxes) in a farming community in rural Wales. Her post-doctoral research has been concerned with a wide range of trans-species interactions around the world, including human–baboon conflict in South Africa, wildlife conservation and eco-tourism in Swaziland, and palliative and end of life care for companion animals in the UK. She is currently conducting research on street dog management in Romania, and zoo soundscapes at two UK zoological parks.
Michael is a Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of EASE. His interest in the ethics of human–animal relationships goes back to the late 1980s, when, as an undergraduate at the University of Bonn, he read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975) and Stephen Clark’s The Moral Status of Animals (1977). For a while he became an animal rights activist. In 1990, when Peter Singer was under attack in Germany for his stance on euthanasia, he spent much of his last term as an undergraduate defending Singer’s position against his fellow students. He remains, however, very critical of Singer’s utilitarianism. Later his philosophical interests moved into a different direction, but his first major research project after resettling to the UK in 2003 was concerned with the integrity of living beings, aiming to show that there are things that can be done and are done to animals that are wrong despite not causing any direct suffering (e.g. certain genetic interventions). More recently he has been working on animal enhancement and is now focusing on the question of what makes the life of a nonhuman animal good and worth living. Michael would be interested in supervising PhD projects on animal ethics and philosophical aspects of human–animal relations.
Tom is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and a member of EASE. He has a lifelong interest in human–animal interactions and in 2001 made a documentary film about koi keepers and their relationships with their fish. The film is called Fish Have Feelings Too. It is available to view via the Alexander Street Ethnographic Video Online collection and can be purchased through the Royal Anthropological Institute. Tom also has a strong research interest in sound and has written about auditory culture in a wide variety of contexts, including institutions such as hospitals and prisons, but he is also interested in sound as a feature of the environment more widely, and in how human and nonhuman animals interact through sound.
In 2017 he is leading a module on Bioacoustics for the MA in Anthrozoology at the University of Exeter. As well as writing about sound Tom explores the use of sound recording and composition in ethnographic representation. In 2015 he produced and presented a documentary entitled Govindpuri Sound for the BBC World Service. The programme explores the soundscape of the Govindpuri Slums in South Delhi. You can read about and listen to the programme here. He is hoping to bring a sonic perspective to the EASE working group’s metaproject on stray dog management ‘Tails from the Street’.
Tom would be interested in supervising PhD projects relating to human-animal interactions, particularly as manifested through music and sound.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Alexander has recently completed a PhD in philosophy at Exeter and is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. His PhD thesis, entitled Growing in Goodness: Towards a Symbiotic Ethics, attempted to consider the way in which a life lived with other living things (more specifically organic smallholding and gardening) can and should constitute a good (if not the best) way to become a wiser person. While Alexander’s main academic background is in philosophy and particularly in ethics, he also has a degree in anthropology and religious studies and prefers to retain an interdisciplinary approach. Alexander’s work mainly concerns animal and environmental ethics with a particular focus on how ethical questions can and should be informed by self-sufficient (self-provision) lifestyles. Much of Alexander’s efforts are spent in attempting to break down boundaries not only between academic disciplines but also between academia and ‘normal life’, the contention being that many important (ethical) questions are best asked and answered through an approach which mixes theory and practice seamlessly and also engages with non-typical literature. To this end, Alexander works in conservation, animal rescue and gardening and views all of these things as an extension of the discipline which has come to be called ‘philosophy as a way of life’.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Fenella is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. Her PhD in Anthrozoology was an ethnographic study of symbiotic practices of care performed by co-existing human–canine partnerships in the field of scent detection and chronic illness. While studying for the PhD, she presented papers at the EASE annual conference in Milan, a British Animal Studies Network meeting in Glasgow, a poster at the ISAZ14 conference in Vienna, and papers at ASA 2015 and postgraduate student conferences held at the University of Exeter. Particular interests lie in the consequences of companion animal death and in further understanding non-invasive, pain-free multispecies biomedical interventions and experiences. With a dissertation centred on childhood abuse of animals, she received a B. Psychology in Counselling from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa (2009), and in 2011, a Masters degree in Anthrozoology (University of Wales, Lampeter) relating to virtual and physical memorials assisting socially-isolated individuals, bereaved of a companion animal. She spent several years travelling and working in Namibia as a newspaper sub-editor, and in South Africa studying canine psychology and behaviour, and animal-assisted activities, while caring for dogs and horses in the absence of their human companions.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Jessica is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. She is part of the research team on the project Tails from the streets, which uses trans-species ethnography to document, understand and ultimately help to mitigate the ‘stray dog problem’ in a variety of national contexts, beginning with fieldwork in Romania in April 2017. Jess’s doctoral research examined media representations of urban ‘fox attacks’ and, more broadly, issues of human–wildlife conflict through the lens of the sociologies of moral panic and risk. Jess’s research interests include the spatial ontologies of stray, liminal and transgressive animals, human–animal conflict in urban areas, humane wildlife deterrence, Critical Animal Studies, and the ethics and methodologies of participatory action research. Her research has been published in academic books and journals and written about in popular texts, most recently Lucy Jones’s (2016) Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain. Jess has a multi-disciplinary academic background, with a BA (Durham) and MA (Leeds) in Geography, a PhD in Sociology (Exeter) and teaching experience at undergraduate and Masters level in Sociology and Anthropology. Jess currently lectures on the MA Anthrozoology and has previously worked as a freelance translator and animal charity manager. In 2012 Jess co-founded a cross-disciplinary working group called Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society (CPAS) and was awarded the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) Britches Scholar Award. She was also the Co-Director of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (Europe) and remains a member of the UK Vegan Society Research Advisory Committee.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Steve has been described in the media as ‘The Digital Horse Whisperer’. He is a Computer Science researcher, mainly working in Human–Computer Interaction (HCI), with a specific focus on Animal–Computer Interaction (ACI). Steve is also a qualified ‘natural horsemanship’ instructor, with animal behaviour, ethology and horse training experience. He is interested in methodologies that include ‘implicit’ and ‘unaware’ technology interactors (both humans and nonhuman animals) in the process of system design. For this purpose, he has explored new hybrid methodologies, which combine ethnography with ethology. Through the HABIT (Horse Automated Behaviour Identification) project, he is studying Horse–Computer Interaction, focusing on automated behaviour identification from video. This involves him in the development of software for machine learning and computer vision. His current focus is on using technology to give the voiceless a voice – be they human or nonhuman animals.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Ivan has just joined the University of Exeter as a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. He is a social anthropologist but has also studied biological anthropology and archaeology. His anthrozoological research and interests cover a wide area including: intersubjective transspecies interactions in hunting, honey collection, shamanism and everyday life; the impacts of wildlife trafficking on indigenous peoples; and, representations of indigenous peoples and ‘wildness’ in the colonial imagination. He frequently carries out collaborative research with cultural ecologists, biological anthropologists and social anthropologists on projects involving human–animal (and human–environmental) interactions. Ivan’s doctoral research was carried out with Bateks, a forager peoples who live in the rapidly diminishing forests of central Peninsular Malaysia. He explores how processes of globalisation and marginalisation have led to realignments of Batek animistic religion, moral geographies, and claims to places. He argues that by framing rapid social and environmental changes within their own ontology, Bateks open up space for cultural resilience and political resistance. During his long-term fieldwork in Malaysia (24 months over a 7 year period), he worked closely with the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers, the Malaysian Nature Society and several other wildlife and human rights NGOs. He has published numerous papers and book chapters about his research with Bateks and has presented his research at many conferences across the world. Ivan is originally from Devon but was based in France for the last sixteen years where he lectured in anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and languages at different universities in the Lyon area. He has studied anthropology in the UK, France and Finland and was a research associate in Malaysia. He speaks English, French, Malay and Batek fluently. He is a member of the Scientific Committee and Editorial Board for the International Society for Academic Research on Shamanism (ISARS).
EASE Honorary Research Associate
Teo is an interpreter, cultural mediator, and ethicist of care. She studied philosophy in Romania and Germany, and now expands her knowledge towards medical sociology. Since 2010 she has been working for the University of Exeter, Medical School, teaching medical humanities. She works as an ethics expert for the European Commission. Her interests in Anthrozoology include: ethics of care for human–animal interactions, cross cultural interpretations of anthrozoological relationships.
MA Anthrozoology Programme Lecturer
Astrid’s work criss-crosses Feminist Science Studies, Human–Animal Studies, New Materialisms, and Bio-Deconstruction. She has explored questions of responsibility, care and agency and indeterminacy in scientific knowledge production, new ontologies, the relationship between anthropocentrism and conceptions of time, and questions of environmental justice. Astrid has been particularly interested in scientific research on marine microbes, their performances in/as Harmful Algal Blooms, their deaths and their temporal rhythms. A recent project examines the scientific reconfigurations of life and death through research into microbial suicide. Her work has been published in the journals Social Studies of Science, Environmental Philosophy, differences, and Body & Society. She co-edited (with Sophia Roosth) a special issue of differences titled “Feminist Theory out of Science”, and has written an entry on ‘Microbes’ for a gender studies encyclopaedia. She is currently working on a monograph.
PhD Students and GTAs
- Luci Attala
- Alexandra Onofrei
- Katie Patmore
- Kate Marx
- Melani Nardone
- Teresa Tyler
- Michelle Witham-Jones
- Elizabeth Vandermeer
- Emily Stone
- Eimear McLoughlin
- Sharon Merz
Michelle Whitham Jones
My PhD research (development of an instrument to measure intersubjectivity between children with autism and donkeys) responds to critics of Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) that question the efficacy of research that reports benefits for children with autism.
My current research looks at interactions between hikers and wildlife on the Appalachian Trail in the United States (the world’s longest hiking-only trail). My primary aim is to find out how hikers experience living among and encountering autonomous (wild) animals, and to begin to think about how the animals on the trail experience living among and encountering humans.
My PhD research will involve a 13-month multi-sited fieldwork in Denmark where I will explore cultural attitudes towards animals and the meat they consume.
I am currently engaged in work that explores the role water plays in shaping people's lives in rural Kenya. Theoretically I lean towards the New Materialities Move and take inspiration from relational ontologies and the work of the Multispecies Approach.
The working title for my PhD is “A Multispecies Negotiation of Disease and Decision-Making During a Novel, Eco-Friendly Genetic Modification Project”. My thesis research will examine the knowledges and processes which will shape interspecies negotiation and decision-making during a proposed ‘eco-friendly’ introduction of genetically modified white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) into an island ecology to address Lyme disease.
My current research focuses on pig sacrifice and interspecies creation of human and animal identities in rural parts of northern Romania.
My PhD project is called The Lived Experience of Companion Dogs and their Guardians. This concerns the lived world of the ordinary, everyday but unique and multi-faceted relationships between companion dogs and their guardians.
The title of my PhD research is ‘The Cat is Nature’s Beauty’: Ethnography of More-Than-Human Interrelatedness in UK Cat Shows.
My PhD research centres on aspects of hunting with dogs in Cyprus. The hunting industry is thriving in Cyprus with the activity being practiced enthusiastically. It receives endorsement and condemnation in equal measures but with recent reports of mass illegal bird trapping, a negative focus has once again turned on the hunting fraternity.
The title of my PhD project is Troubling Boundaries? Tradition, biopower and individual wild animals in French circuses. Circus tradition that includes a central role for animal performance persists in France and is afforded governmental support and promotion through the Ministry of Culture. However, traditional circuses in Europe that perform with wild animals are being challenged publicly and altered through the enactment of legal bans on use of these animals, reflecting increasing unease with wild animal performance in particular.
My Anthropology PhD research centres on human–animal relations amongst the Bebelibe people of northwestern Benin, West Africa, with a particular focus on totemic relationships.
The Exeter Anthrozoology and Symbiotic Ethics working group has received some funding for a pilot study aimed at exploring the ways in which humans live alongside free roaming dogs. As part of this project, entitled Tails from the Streets’, we are attempting to establish a multi-species workspace where humans and dogs can co-exist and learn from each other. There are numerous reasons for this, including:
- Some team members are canophobic (afraid of dogs). By having friendly dogs in the office we can build a better understanding of dog behaviour and help overcome this fear before embarking on fieldwork with free roaming dogs. One of our hypotheses is that fear of dogs is a key factor which influences the way free roaming dogs are managed. The team are working with a human counsellor and several dog trainers to explore the issues associated with canophobia (in both humans and dogs) and how best to tackle them.
- Having dogs in the office will also enable us to trial different novel methodologies which will be employed in the field, including Qualitative Behavioural Assessments (QBA). Having various individual dogs in the office will mean that behaviours and the social dynamic will vary depending on which dogs are present and this will help when it comes to identifying and recording a wide range of behaviours and interactions in the field.
- While there has been a great deal of research conducted to date which argues for the benefits (to human health and wellbeing) of interacting with dogs, especially in relation to stress reduction, very little has focussed on the canine perspective. By conducting regular QBA in the office environment we will be able to address that oversight and contribute to discussions about the benefits or shortcomings of both multi-species interactions and the inclusion of dogs in the workplace.
Left to right: Bleddyn, Lottie, Annwn, Abi.