The last decade has seen a flourishing of interest in the minded experiences of other creatures. This is visible in popular documentaries, new forms of dog training, new social movements and new legal and political agendas. How is such knowledge produced, what is its history and philosophy, how is it circulated, and how does it affect our relationship with nonhuman animals: intimately, ontologically and politically? In short, how do we know what we think we know about other animals?
Why study animal behaviour expertise?
Situated in the growing field of the sociology of Human-Animal Relations, (HAR), my doctoral thesis argued that animal behaviour expertise is active in the world, enrolling many stakeholders. It is called upon to justify certain practices, it mobilises political movements, changes intimate relationships, produces moral categories and changes consumption habits. It may also be suppressed, denied, and contested. Its experiments enrol real, live nonhuman individuals who contribute to the formation of knowledge.
Most professional knowledge about animals is produced under objectivist scientific frameworks. However, this Fellowship will explore the sociological significance of emerging forms of professional, "critically anthropomorphic" expertise. Critical anthropomorphism is an approach which permits qualitative, 'common-sense' interpretations of animals, whilst placing critical checks on those interpretations through certain techniques. This is an increasingly popular methodological idea in sociology (eg Irvine, 2004). However, in a unique contribution to the field, this Fellowship will explore the theoretical and methodological tensions inherent in critical anthropomorphism's actual practice. This is based on ethnographic investigation of a) an animal welfare methodology called Qualitative Behaviour Assessment, used here with laboratory mice and b) the teaching of horse behaviour in an "equine-assisted personal-development" site.