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Biopolitics and Becoming in Animal-Technology Assemblages

Abstract

This article critically explores Foucauldian approaches to the human-animal-technology nexus central to modern industrialised agriculture, in particular those which draw upon Foucault’s conception of power as productive to posit the reconstitution of animal subjectivities in relation to changing agricultural technologies. This is situated in the context of key recent literature addressing animals and biopolitics, and worked through a historical case study of an emergent dairy technology. On this basis it is argued that such approaches contain important insights but also involve risks for the analyses of human-animal-technology relations, especially the risk of subsuming what is irreducible in animal subjectivity and agency under the shaping power of technologies conceived as disciplinary or biopolitical apparatuses. It is argued that this can be avoided by bringing biopolitical analysis into dialogue with currents from actor-network theory in order to trace the formation of biopolitical collectives as heterogeneous assemblages. Drawing upon documentary archive sources, the article explores this by working these different framings of biopolitics through a historical case study of the development of the first mechanical milking machines for use on dairy farms.

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Elemental problems, methodical solutions: expertise, ecology and entertainment in the study of marine mammals

Abstract

This paper examines the development of socio-technical strategies and practices for the study and display of marine mammals. It considers how techniques initially developed for terrestrial use were deployed under marine conditions, not least through the adaptation of strategies and habits originating in industry, commerce and the military, in order to facilitate researchers’ access to their subjects. In particular, it examines how these methodological developments intersected with the terrestrial display of marine mammals. Throughout, it shows how the agency of the animals under observation had a key role to play in the emergence of cetology as a profession and as a form of knowledge.

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Measuring ephemera: finding the “qualitative” in Qualitative Behaviour Assessment as a “whole-animal” science of animal welfare

Abstract

Qualitative Behaviour Assessment (QBA) emerged in the early 2000s as a way of evaluating the expressive quality of animal behaviour and emotions using qualitative descriptors, such as “playful” or “depressed.” Developed in response to the scepticism of behaviourist attitudes to animal emotions, QBA is now an internationally respected methodology, if still contentious in some circles for what is perceived as an “anthropomorphic” approach. This article results from a research period spent with a UK university laboratory team who were developing species-specific QBA descriptors for the welfare assessment of laboratory mice. The case of the search for a “calm mouse” illuminates the difficulties sometimes encountered in finding the “qualitative” in QBA. It suggests that welfare assessments of animals are epistemologically multiple. Through a historical account of QBA’s emergence, drawing on Cristina Grasseni’s concept of an “ecology of practice,” I argue that different modes of perceiving animal behaviour have emerged through socially and historically inscribed practices.

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The National Institute for Scientific Research (INIC): Pathway and Influence in Portuguese Science Policy (1976-1992)

Abstract

My Ph.D research project aims at writing the history of the Portuguese National Institute for Scientific Research (Instituto Nacional de Investigação Científica, INIC) (1976-92). Although INIC is an important institutional actor in the development of the Portuguese scientific system, it has been mostly absent from the history of the Portuguese institutions of science policy. INIC was founded after the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974 in a context in which institutional coordination of scientific research had already become a priority. The political instability of the post-revolutionary period, together with the expansion of the scientific system, resulted in institutional tensions and conflicts involving the scientific community, the higher education community, and other institutions tangent to INIC, that led to its extinction in 1992. Based on INIC’s archive and complemented by secondary sources and interviews, this project proposes to bring this institution into the historical narrative of the Portuguese institutions of science policy.

Open access
Postscript Fur, feather, teeth and skin: How do technologies and ontologies meet in time and space?

Abstract

The old lady cradles her bleeding finger and staggers, feinting almost falling, as Gary from number one sprints back to his garden to pick up a deckchair for her. Her dog, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier, is quivering in another neighbour’s arms, snapping at well-wishers who are trying to inspect the skin for any bite-marks. “Has it attacked before?” the old lady quavers, pointing limply to the Jack Russell held by a piece of string in a little boy’s sweaty hand. “It’s your dog, she’s bitten this lady” says Gary as I join the scene, “Your son brought the dog out, but it got loose somehow and went for this little dog. This lady put her hand down to pick her dog up, and she’s been bitten.” Fearful, the little boy walks away. The old lady is now slumped in the deckchair. Nobody speaks for a while. But then there is talk of tetanus shots and hospitals. “My husband has just had a stroke, you know? This won’t help” the old woman says, “I don’t know why but dogs always go for my little Misty.” I don’t apologise though I try to show kindness. After the lady has drunk a cup of tea, used someone’s mobile phone to call the doctor and obtained a lift home we all return to what we were doing. As we turn to leave the scene, one of the neighbours comments that “it’s such a shame because she is clearly a dog-lover” which puzzles me. Gary takes his deckchair home.1

Open access