2019 Lab Bulletin #1

Posted on May 15, 2019 in Ordinary Madness of Academia

Harae mai.

Ever searching for ways to document and share our research and teaching, I would like to welcome everyone to this year’s More-Than-Human Lab Bulletin. I imagine these coming out three times, roughly in line with my university’s trimester system, so nothing huge but I will do my best to keep up :)

On farm, the winter veg are planted but the days have become painfully short and it’s time to start thinking about last year’s lambs. Actually, I’ve been chewing on that for a few months now, and my thoughts about killing farmed animals are only getting more and more entangled. I’m also being haunted by previous decisions and will soon need to answer to Winter-on-the-Land, and she’s tough. In the meantime, we’ve been taking extra good care of the soil and plant-life, and are looking to bring more ducks home as our flock is now only five and we can provide a great home for up to ten. Plus more eggs for them and us!

Before I talk about myself, a special shoutout to Madi MQ, who is back with us as a teaching fellow and tutor. You may recall Madi’s awesome Masters thesis: Pigs in Cyberspace, and we’re really hoping she applies to do a PhD with us too. Hint, hint! But nothing begins without something else ending., Our brilliant postgrads Selena S and Birgit B will finish their degrees this year, and we look forward to sharing more on that soon. But this also means we’re looking for curious and interesting people from all around the world who want to join us in our more-than-human experiments and adventures! If that’s you, please get in touch with me directly

We are also very pleased to welcome a new Visiting Scholar, Dr Tracey Benson. We look forward to sharing many stories in the coming months :) If you’re interested in a research visit, please contact us.

My research on how farmers & scientists care for, and about, sheep is in a bit of a holding pattern as I get all the interview transcripts done and sorted. One recurring theme is the difference between those who view sheep as valuable in and of themselves, and those who see sheep as mere means to a (human) end. What are the ethics of eating someone instead of something?

Otherwise, I keep recalling one farmer laughing when I asked him why he liked sheep, and telling me that no one had ever asked him that before. (How can that be?!) I think I have to give up on getting the time to visit the farms I missed late last year and instead re-visit one or two farms in Aug/Sept to help out with lambing, and draw out a few things of special interest. In any case, onwards!

As some of you know, I’m also working on a second doctorate in creative writing. My proposal is due in August and my working title is KNOWING SHEEP. I plan to write some sort of hybrid thesis which will mix fiction and critical/ethical thinking.

To be ready on time, I’m drawing inspiration from Jenn Ashworth’s “gentle approach to writing productivity.” She started her #100DaysOfWriting while she wasn’t teaching so I expect this to be a bit challenging. Still it’s the idea of “turning up” for my writing that resonates so strongly. No time limits or word counts, just coming together every day. But (sigh) I’m not big on building habits in public, so please wish me luck and I’ll let you know how it goes after the hundred days?

In other news, I’m getting much better (after, ahem, 10+ years) at integrating my research and teaching. We’re entering the last few weeks of Design Ethnography now and it’s been the best run so far. The students have been incredibly thoughtful and by the end of June our collective GUIDE TO PRACTICAL EARTH SKILLS will be made freely available here for printing and sharing. Yay!

In July the winter trimester starts and I’ve got my second year course, Speculative Design, plus I’m teaching a combined undergrad-postgrad special topic: Multispecies Design Ethnography. Both should be a lot of fun, and I’ll share more soon.

Until next time, take care of each other!
~ Anne and the other animals

PS. Don’t miss this amazing roll call of folks who do more-than-human design research!