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Research at St Andrews

Jules Alexander Skotnes Brown


Jules Alexander Skotnes Brown
Postal address:
School of Philosophical
Anthropological & Film Studies
(Social Anthropology)
71 North Street, St Andrews
United Kingdom


Direct phone: +44 (0)1334 462973

Research overview

Jules Skotnes-Brown is a historian of science. His research connects histories of animals, disease, knowledge production, and colonialism in the nineteeth and twentieth centuries. He is currently a Research Fellow in the History of Rat Proofing working on the Wellcome Trust funded project 'The Global War Against the Rat and the Epistemic Emergence of Zoonosis'. Here he will be writing a multi-sited history of rodent-proofing in India, the USA, South Africa, and Australia. His research will explore how the efforts of humans to exclude disease-carrying and food-devouring rodents from spaces of human occupation brought disparate regions and peoples together. Through examining five sites of pestilence – homes, farms, cities, ecosystems, and oceanic trade networks – he will chart how and why town-infesting, countryside-dwelling, and seafaring rodents have become despised “enemies” of humankind, and what their mobilities and spatial behaviour reveal about the histories of zoonosis and species invasiveness.

Jules's PhD, completed at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge (2017-2020) charted the construction of physical and conceptual boundaries between human and animal, wild and domestic, protected and pest, and the consequences of crossing such boundaries in South Africa (1910s-1940s). With case studies spanning elephants, birdlife, tsetse-flies, and wild-rodents, it examined how wildlife was commodified, categorised, conserved, or exterminated on rural inner-frontiers, and how spheres of ‘nature’ and ‘civilisation’ were constructed and reconciled. In particular, it emphasised how forms of knowledge typically considered outside of science such as African expertise intermingled with the sciences, but necessarily complicated the boundaries between them. Likewise, it demonstrated the influence of nonhuman agents in the sciences and on the environment, without de-emphasising the destructive and dehumanising role played by European humans in southern African history.

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