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Maisie Tomlinson

Thesis title - ''Critical anthropomorphism' and multi-species ethnography: an investigation into animal behaviour expertise'.


  • Dr Richie Nimmo
  • Dr Sophie Woodward


Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art – 3 Year Acting Professional Diploma

BA in Sociology (1st) Goldsmiths, University of London. Dissertation: Hungry Bodies: Yuk, Yum and the Suspended Space of Invitation: A theatrical investigation of the somatically-felt body

MA in Social Research (with Distinction) Goldsmiths, University of London. Thesis Title: Names, Natural Behaviour and Neoteny: The Representational Politics of Nonhuman Animal Subjectivities in Animal Protection Campaigns

PhD research

I study people who study animals, and I’m interested how we know what we think we know about other species. Different schools of thought have different ideas about the nature of animal minds, how they are best investigated, and to what ends. My PhD research explores the ontological, epistemological and social politics of animal behaviour expertise as it is practiced in diverse settings. I compare two seemingly divergent case studies, which nonetheless share a common belief in the ‘innate’ ability of humans to read and interpret the behaviour of other species. One is the teaching of horse behaviour and communication in a rural organisation that offers “Equine-Assisted Personal Development”; and the other explores a science-based animal welfare methodology called Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA). I follow its development for use as a welfare assessment tool for laboratory mice at a UK university.

I am currently investigating themes such as animal subjectivity, ‘anthropomorphism’, agency, relationality, the role of science and the politics of touch and embodiment. I have a particular interest in multi-species ethnography, and have run workshops in how the experience of nonhuman animals might be more closely attended to using somatic-emotional experience, sensory methods, and techniques taken from performance training.

Research interests

Alongside the sociology of human-animal relationships and post-humanist studies, I have a strong interest in the body, particularly kinaesthetic awareness, sensuality, symbolic interaction and the expansion of alternative senses. I also have an interest in the sociology of death and dying and spent 3 months as a Community Researcher for a hospice, looking into the availability and accessibility of palliative care for children in two South London Boroughs in 2015.

A trained actor, I have worked alongside Les Back and Michaela Benson at Goldsmiths, University of London, developing the Fieldwork Fables series of films for use in teaching undergraduate and postgraduate social research students. This used real-life stories from researchers to develop improvised roleplay films using actors, exploring research difficulties and dilemmas.

My work in animal science studies is complemented by my work for Crustacean Compassion, where I lead a campaign for the inclusion of decapod crustaceans into UK animal welfare law. 

Conference presentations

"Horses, Humans and the Felt Sense", Interspecies Performance Workshop at the University of Surrey, May 2018

"'He Just Didn't Want to Know', Distance and Indifference in an Equine Assisted Personal Development Site", (Un)common Worlds Conference, Turku, Finland, August 2018

"Practices of Sensory Attention in Multi-species Ethnography: how can we become more sensitive empirical researchers of the nonhuman?" methods@manchester Lunchtime Seminar Series, October 2018. Available on YouTube.

'Practices of attention in multi-sensory and multi-species ethnography: how can we become more sensitive empirical researchers of the nonhuman?"We Need to Talk About Multi-Species Ethnography, Ethnography Tuesdays series, Keele University, December 2018

Workshops given

'Cultivating Curiosity: Sensory Methods and Multi-species Ethnography"

A half-day workshop in the studio and in the park, using exercises from theatre training and my experience of ethnographic research with horses, sheep and mice to explore ways in which we can become more attuned and more receptive to a wider array of qualitative data.

External programmes

Participant, Animals and Society Institute - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Summer Institute 2018. A week-long programme for early-career Animal Studies scholars, facilitated by leading academics in the field, and comprising of seminars, work-exchange, field trips and lectures.

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