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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Dr Neil Pemberton



Current Monograph Projects.

1. Fancy Dogs and the Fancy: Pedigree Dog Breeding in Nineteenth-Century Britain.

With Julie-Marie Strange and Michael Worboys, I am currently completing an AHRC-funded co-authored book project. The book explores the cultural, scientific and social contexts of pedigree dog breeding and its wider social and social significance in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

2. The Poop Scoop Revolution and the multi-species politics of dog-walking and dog-fouling in modern Britain

My new work historically explores the historical constitution of an everyday phenomenon – the widespread pet-keeping practice of picking up canine excrement. I examine what might be called the “Poop Scoop Revolution” and represents initial work on the multi-species politics of dog-walking in Britain over the last forty years. I explore historically and critically the question raised by Donna Harraway in her rallying Companion Species Manifesto: “who takes care of the shit in a companion animal relationship?” 

3. On the Scent: Dogs, Detection and Modern Culture (contracted to Manchester University Press).

This book length project focuses on the historical development of a distinct set of human-dog practices – the use of bloodhounds to follow scent trails in police investigation. This project explores what might be termed the history of canine forensics by focusing on one of the iconic dogs associated with such practices – the pedigree English bloodhound – in American and British policing  over the course of the last 150 years.  

This transatlantic project involves two interrelated strands: 1) the history of a hunting-like form of knowledge and practice which in Carlo Ginsburg’s classic analysis of a clue-centred evidentiary paradigm  ‘binds the human animal closely to other animal species’; 2) how the practical application of this interspecies collaboration opened up new possibilities of forensic investigation but also resonated in wider public spheres -- channelling and expanding pre-existing cultural codes and conventions concerning smelling and human-animal relationships.

Although my project observes chronological boundaries, it does not necessarily proceed in linear fashion. My intention is focus on a series of exemplary murder investigations,  serving as apertures through which discrete socio-historical moments can be discerned: in which a range of constituencies were forced to take sides and to assert their presence in the emerging discourse of canine forensics. In the process such events shaped expert and public understandings of legitimate and illegitimate forms of forensic knowledge and practice, catalysing social and cultural contests about the nature of human-animal relationships and the distinctive position of scent and smelling in culture.



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