MUSTS Colloquium (06/12): Camille Bellet (CHSTM) on “Decentralising the human in the study of cow surveillance in dairy farming”

Wednesday December 6th, 15:30-17:00

This event will take place on-campus

If you would like to attend as non-MUSTS member, please register by sending an email to: j{dot}bruyninckx{at}maastrichtuniversity{dot}nl

This presentation engages with the growing field of posthumanist research to focus on the challenges offoregrounding the non-human animal perspective in knowledge production. Based on the findings of my current Wellcome Trust projectfocus on the case of animal surveillance in dairy farming and discuss insights from my historical, ethnographic, and art-based research. The project seeks to experiment with alternatives aimed at ‘decentring’ the human in the study of human-animal relationships. This involves deploying relational and multisensory approaches, as well as exploring their social and political dimensions. Investigating sensing technologies and camera surveillance systems, I delve into the effects of visualising cows, particularly through real-time images displayed on computers and smartphones. Through the deployment of non-traditional methodological and analytical tools, I find that novel sensations and sensibilities are generated among farmers (beyond sight as a sense) in cow video surveillance. The findings also challenge imaginaries – including our own, as researchers – around human sensory engagements and ways of understanding the experiences of cows. Finally, I speculate on the potential shifts in cows’ sensory experiences of being farmed with the advent of remote-sensing cameras. Through this inquiry of and withthe senses, I aim to advance an innovative approach to the study of human-animal relationships in and outside farming.

Camille Bellet is a posthumanist researcher and Honorary Research Fellow in Humanities and Social Sciences at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (University of Manchester). She is also a member of the research group ‘Anthropology of Life’ (Collège de France). Trained as a veterinary practitioner and epidemiologist, she was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Science (2020) to establish herself as one of the few interdisciplinary social scientists in the field of animal health and well-being. Her research sits at the intersection of the environmental and medical humanities, sensory studies, and STS and draws on sensory methods and approaches from history, ethnography, and the arts. In her work, she explores human relationships with non-human animals, particularly cows, pigs, and chickens.