ShARC Blog

Welcome to the ShARC Blog! The Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre (ShARC) is the home of animal studies at the University of Sheffield.  Sheffield has an unusually large number of scholars and students from different disciplines working on the broad theme of human-animal relations. The purpose of this blog is twofold: to provide a platform for some of the research we are undertaking; but also to offer our scholarly thoughts on all things animal studies – whether they be events, workshops, news stories, legal changes, movies, documentaries, and so on. The ShARC Blog…continue reading →

The Poultry Suicide Club, by Daniel J Bowman

In 1895, the editor of the first ever automobile periodical in the English language—Horseless Age—argued that cars would liberate horses in what he called ‘the humanitarian aspect of the case.’ According to the editor—E. P. Ingersoll—the coming of a horseless age was actually in the interest of horses:  ‘To spare the obedient beast, that since the dawn of history has been man’s drudge, from further service at the industrial treadmill, will be a downright mercy.’[1] On what was to become of these liberated horses, however, Ingersoll makes no comment. The life of an…continue reading →

Beware the Category: Human, by Robert McKay

Robert McKay is Co-Director of the Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre (ShARC). He is one of the performers/practice-researchers in Beware the Cat, a multimedia performance adaptation of William Baldwin’s 16th Century prose work using music, song, text-reading, signs and projected images. Centred on the grisly alchemical experiments of a rambling priest seeking to understand the language of cats, the story reflects on a question that has provoked humans across the ages: do birds and beasts have reason? The work is being performed as part of the Animal Movements conference at the University of…continue reading →
Brilliant Animals: John C. Lilly, Ken Russell, and Cold War Behaviourism, by Peter Sands

Brilliant Animals: John C. Lilly, Ken Russell, and Cold War Behaviourism, by Peter Sands

John C. Lilly is probably best known for inventing the sensory deprivation tank. Popularised in Ken Russell’s movie Altered States (1980), and more recently in Netflix’s Stranger Things (2016), Lilly’s tank was designed to suspend its subject in absolute darkness and without sensory input in order to discover new things about the human’s internal reality. In reference to Lilly’s own LSD-fuelled self-experiments in the tank, Russell’s protagonist, Dr. Edward Jessup, sets out to uncover the essential secrets of the human’s genetic memory under the influence of a hallucinatory drug. Floating inside the tank,…continue reading →

“The Fiendish Hound”: How The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) Makes Us Rethink About Our Co-existence with Nature, by Ming Panha

The present day is seen as catastrophic in almost every aspect: politics, culture, and even nature. Ecological awareness has become widespread as news reports about natural disasters appear daily, such as The Amazon forest fire, the discovery of microplastics in the ocean, and the increase of world temperature, evidenced by, for example, the death of salmon in Alaska and the invasion of polar bears in Russia. The images of pristine nature have been evoked in discourses about nature conservation, and yet this Edenic representation of nature has rendered nature subservient to human pleasure…continue reading →

Interrogating A Settler Feminist Co-Opting of the Indigenous Figure of Coyote in Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s The Cure for Death by Lightning (1996), by Alice Higgs

Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s bestselling 1996 novel The Cure for Death by Lightning has been hailed as a feminist bildungsroman, documenting a young girl named Beth Weeks’ journey into womanhood and the consequent male sexual violence that appears to follow her growing physical maturity. The novel is set on a remote farm location in British Columbia during the Second World War, and is littered with non-human animals, both wild and domestic. Despite the novel’s success, underlying the novel is a largely unexplored problematic co-opting of Indigenous stories and voices for settler-feminist literary purposes, which reflects…continue reading →
Fictional Constructions of “the Field” in Mary Sanders Pollock’s Storytelling Apes: Primatology Narratives Past and Future (2015), by Joe Mansfield

Fictional Constructions of “the Field” in Mary Sanders Pollock’s Storytelling Apes: Primatology Narratives Past and Future (2015), by Joe Mansfield

Published in 2015, Mary Sanders Pollock’s Storytelling Apes (2015) offers a comprehensive overview of modern primatology and the narrative strategies it created to best portray instances of non-human animal life. The book consists of a critical analysis of a selection of literary materials produced by a number of renowned primatologists including Jane Goodall, Sarah Hardy, and Diane Fossey, as well as the foundational literary traditions established by Charles Darwin. Drawing heavily from the conceptual approaches of figures like Donna Haraway, Pollock similarly offers science and scientific narratives to be social constructions forever inclined…continue reading →

Animal Remains (Sheffield, April 2019): A Report by Sarah Bezan

From April 29-30th 2019, ShARC was host to nearly ninety delegates and visitors from across the UK and abroad. The Animal Remains Conference, a biennial conference held jointly between ShARC and BIOSEC (a European Research Council-funded project under the administration of School of Politics Professor Rosaleen Duffy), explored how animal remains function in and beyond the realms of politics, literature, natural history, and aesthetics. As co-organizers, Robert McKay and I sought to open up the parameters of ‘animal remains’ to explore its murky underbelly and its multiplicitous associations across the interdisciplinary interstices of…continue reading →

The Selkie and the Fur Trade: Eliza Keary’s ‘Little Seal-skin’, by John Miller

An 1889 article in Bow Bells articulated a common sentiment in the late nineteenth century: ‘There is nothing […] so luxurious as a fur garment [and] nothing quite so lovely as a sealskin.’ Sealskin’s pre-eminence in Victorian fashion was built on the bodies of northern fur seals, a species resident mainly in the North Pacific with the majority of the population concentrated in the Bering Strait. It was America’s purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 that made the remains of these creatures available to the European fur trade in unprecedented numbers: in…continue reading →

Muck Raking: Waste and Animality in Upton Sinclair, by Daniel Bowman

The year 1895 saw the publication of the first ever automobile periodical in the United States – The Horseless Age.  Appearing five years before U.S. horse populations peaked, it was made clear from the onset that the car was intended to be a ‘substitute’ for the horse.  As a statement from editor E. P. Ingersoll makes clear, however, it was not increased speed that was initially desired so much as increased sanitation.  If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted they would probably have said cleaner horses.  In 1880, New York City…continue reading →

Sentientist Politics: A Theory of Global Inter-Species Justice (OUP, 2018) by Alasdair Cochrane

Alasdair Cochrane What are the political implications of animal sentience? Should the fact that many animals can suffer and experience joy affect how we do politics? And if so, how? Most states are in agreement that the sentience of animals means something politically. The vast majority of countries across the world possess animal welfare laws which mandate how sentient animals ought and ought not to be treated. Some states have gone even further than this: India, Brazil, Slovenia, Switzerland and Germany, for example, have added animal welfare provisions to their constitutions. France, Belgium…continue reading →