Please tell us about your research project.
I am currently carrying out my PhD at École Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS, France) under supervision of Prof. Florence Burgat (philosophy of human-animal relationships) and Prof. Sophie Roux (History/Philosophy of Sciences) and my work focuses on the History and Philosophy of Sciences applied to Animal Welfare. I am also a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) where I work on practices of validation in applied agricultural sciences. In my PhD dissertation, I show that Animal Welfare, as a concept, is defined by a tension between a descriptive, scientific approach and a normative, political approach. These two approaches may be complementary or contradictory; in order to show how this tension developed, I go back in the history of animal welfare science, by studying the three main research programs (1970-1980 in Europe, 1926-1964 in the UK, and 1890-1929 in the USA). I show how scientists attempted to appropriate and translate notions of animal protection into scientific discourse, and the effects of these appropriations : scientists gained a position as experts, i.e. scientific advisors for public policy-makers, and obtained means to standardize and enhance their research ; but at the same time, they distorted the concept and made it even harder to bear testimony or advocacy for actual animal liberation. By working on the notions of orientation of research programs, of conflict of interest, and on the sociological constitution of disciplines considered as social actors in society, I press on the philosophical question of the relationship between science and society, from the angle of the epistemology of sciences insofar as they are mobilized, used, and engaged into public discussion. I also draw more general conclusions about epistemic injustice, silenciation and the status of subaltern as applied to animals, and about the nature of social change and the levers that allow or prevent social justice, in a humanist (not necessarily humane ?) and capitalist society.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme ?
My three-month stay at the MFO is part of a cooperation convention between my home university (Paris Sciences Lettres, France) and the Maison Française. I take great advantage of this research stay, as it allows me to access unique archival deposits about the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, a central institution in the history of animal welfare research, as well as private correspondence between central actors. Moreover, the History and Philosophy of Science field in Oxford is incredibly lively, and I have had many occasions to meet and work with scholars in my field, especially thanks to the weekly History of Science seminar organised at the MFO.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
The residency format I have so far found incredibly helpful for focusing on archival work, as well as for the writing-up phase. The vibrant environment of the MFO is also very advantageous for junior researchers, as it enhances discussion and gathering with research groups in many relevant fields. I really enjoy the atmosphere in Oxford, as it is both a small city with everything at hand, and a very dense research and social environment.From a more personal perspective, I felt warmly welcomed at the MFO by the permanent staff as well as by the other residents, and will keep a deeply happy memory of this stay.