Universiteit Leiden

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Special event with Charles Foster: Beasts in African Studies? Radical reflections on research methodologies

Thursday 7 November 2019
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room 1A01

A curated conversation with Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast

In this special event, Dr Harry Wels and Prof. Jan-Bart Gewald will have a curated conversation with Prof. Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast (2016), a New York Times Bestseller. 

Charles Foster set out to know the ultimate other: the non-humans, the beasts. And to do that, he tried to be like them, choosing a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer, and a swift. He lived alongside badgers for weeks, eating earthworms and learning to sense the landscape by smell rather than sight. He tried to catch fish in his teeth while swimming like an otter, rooted through London garbage cans as an urban fox, was hunted by bloodhounds as a red deer, nearly dying in the snow. And he followed the swifts on their migration route over the Strait of Gibraltar, discovering himself to be strangely connected to the birds. Foster received, together with ‘goat man’ Thomas Thwaites, the satiric Ig Nobel Prize, a prize for unusual or trivial scientific research that make people laugh first, but afterwards makes them think twice.

The ASCL seminar on 7 November will not try to mold Professor Foster into any regular expectation of an academic seminar either. The seminar will be a ‘curated conservation’ in the sense of ‘carefully chosen’ as the dictionary defines the word ‘curated’. The heart and carefulness of the conversation will be a series of radical reflections on qualitative research methodologies that rely on taking participant observation and empathy in the field to its limits. These reflections will be related to what they might mean for a perspective on African Studies that increasingly includes non-human animals. The conversation will take place in the framework of the Collaborative Research Group Trans-species perspectives on African Studies, of which Wels is the convenor and professor Gewald a member.

More information and registration

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