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Featured Member Profile: Guy Scotton

Today’s featured member profile comes from the always wonderful Guy Scotton. Take it away Guy!

Member: Guy Scotton

What are you researching?

My work is rooted in the unfolding “political turn” in animal ethics, combining normative political theory with sociology and moral psychology. I am exploring the public role of emotions such as love and disgust, and the rituals and narratives that shape and sustain them, in political theories of animal rights. So far, too little attention has been paid to the affective and symbolic dimensions of interspecies solidarity and community life, and I hope here to consolidate recent work in the field that highlights the importance of affect and the moral imagination for cultivating enduring norms of justice and respect for other animals.

 

What drew you to this topic?

Two crucial experiences drew me away from an entirely unrelated PhD project in (human-centric) political theory. First, reading Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolisbefore almost any other work on animal ethics offered me a genuinely exciting glimpse of what a just interspecies community might look and feel like, combining theoretical daring with renewed attention to our differentiated and embodied relationships with nonhuman animals as individuals.

Second, my early work on the topic was catalysed by a wonderful conference experience at the 2013 MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, where I first began to appreciate the vitality and diversity of the animal ethics community.

 

What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?

Every workshop and conference I’ve attended, whether I am presenting or not, has rewarded my work and my thinking in general in ways that are hard to anticipate or summarise. Contributing a chapter to an edited volume, and watching it develop from an idea at a conference through to part of a cohesive collection, has been a particularly rewarding publication experience.

 

What do you wish you had known before you started?

I wish I’d had a clearer understanding of the mechanics of the academic publication process from submission and selection through to responding to reviews, all of which helps to demystify and socialise the apparently solitary writing process. This is something I’ve been fortunate to experience from the other side thanks to my involvement in the Politics and Animalseditorial collective, and I encourage postgrads to get involved in or observe the process where possible; the experience and perspective is invaluable.

I would also like to see more candour and awareness about the demonstrable mental health impacts of postgraduate work, and the specific challenges facing people across the spectrum of human neurodiversity—students with ADHD or autism, for example. Academic work can so often seem isolating, frustrating, and competitive, and we have a collective responsibility to build an academic culture that equitably shares the challenges, and cultivates the benefits, of neurodiversity and mental health.

 

What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?

Attend conferences in your research area as soon as possible; focus less on presenting at this stage and more on finding “your people” and saying “yes” to opportunities to exchange ideas and collaborate beyond the conference. (However, you should also expose your work as early and as often as you can bear it!) This face-to-face energy and momentum will inspire and sustain you as you return to writing (remember to send those follow-up emails and keep the conversation going). A good abstract, like any first impression, can go a long way, and learning to write them well and early on in a project (and re-writing as necessary) will pay dividends at every stage of the writing process. Likewise, practicing writing for a broader audience (e.g. as a guest author for a relevant blog) is another process of translation that can be enormously revealing and clarifying for your work. Most generally, viewing all such forms of writing as words you’re putting into the world, on a continuum with the thinking and writing that goes into a thesis chapter or journal article, helps to further demystify the academic writing process.

 

What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?

Many of my extracurricular pursuits have grown out of, and feed back into, my research. I’m a member of the editorial collective for the peer-reviewed open access journal, Politics and Animals (http://politicsandanimals.org)—itself an example of the sorts of opportunities that emerge from conferences, arising after the MANCEPT 2013 conference thanks to the initiative of our managing editor, Kurt Boyer. Katherine Wayne and I have recently begun production on a documentary about new forms of interspecies community and justice.

When I want to turn off from anything research- or advocacy-related, I spend my time making models, especially resin “garage kits” of science fiction and horror film characters, and I’m now beginning to sculpt my own.

Thanks Guy! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at zoei.sutton@flinders.edu.au

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