Dr Jules Skotnes-Brown

Dr Jules Skotnes-Brown

Research Fellow

Researcher profile

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Research areas

Dr Jules Skotnes-Brown is a historian of science, medicine, and the environment. His research connects histories of animals, disease, knowledge production, and colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly, he is interested in how science and imperialism have shaped relationships between humans and the environment in colonial contexts, from the control of 'disease reservoirs', to the creation of national parks, to the persecution of animals deemed ‘vermin’. Jules is currently a Research Fellow at University of St Andrews on the Wellcome Trust funded project, The Global War Against the Rat and the Epistemic Emergence of Zoonosis. Here he is working on the global history of rats, zoonotic disease, and capitalist infrastructure in the twentieth century. His project explores how the activities of disease-carrying and food-devouring rats have both shaped infrastructures of twentieth-century economies, and how humans have attempted to exclude them from such infrastructures through rat-proofing. Through following the movement of rats across economic networks, his current project charts how and why rats have become despised ‘enemies’ of humankind, and what their mobilities reveal about the entangled histories of colonialism, capitalism, zoonosis, and species invasiveness.

Jules's PhD, completed at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge (2017-2020) is a more-than-human history of pests, science, and segregation in 1910s-40s South Africa. His first book, Segregated Species: Boundaries, Pests and Knowledge in South Africa, 1910-48 (expected Autumn 2024 with Johns Hopkins University Press), is derived from this body of research. The book explores the connections between pest control, racial segregation, and knowledge production in the Union of South Africa. Through examining the activities of animals and humans that settlers considered “vermin”, and their attempts to study and control them, the book makes key contributions to the historiography of South Africa, the environment, the sciences, and colonialism generally. Segregated Species argues that one cannot understand the origins of apartheid, or indeed colonial violence in general, by examining human history alone. Violence against animals and humans were concurrent processes, with many strategies for the management of problem animals – such as elimination, domestication, and separation in reserves – being redeployed for human underclasses. Simultaneously, one equally cannot disassociate scientific disciplines like ecology, zoology, epidemiology, and anthropology from such violence.

Selected publications


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