Dr Christopher Bear
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Director of Undergraduate Studies
My research interests centre on the relationships between humans, animals and technologies. These interests have been developed through a wide range of empirical contexts, ranging from recreational fisheries to dairy farming. I recently completed ESRC-funded research on the adoption of robotic milking technologies in the dairy sector, developing my long-standing interest in the place of animals within food production systems. This interest will be taken in a new direction during Study Leave in 2017-2018, during which I am conducting research on insect farming in the UK, with a particular focus on insects for human consumption. While much of my current work relates to land-based and air-borne animals, I am also one of relatively few human geographers to have a focus on aquatic environments.
I am currently involved in the supervision of six PhD students and am always keen to discuss potential PhD topics that relate to my research interests.
I am Associate Editor of the journal Society and Animals, and regularly referee for all the major Human Geography journals.
My current research on edible insects has led me to become a Director of the Woven Network - the UK's network for insects as food and feed.
My undergraduate teaching currently focuses on the history and philosophy of geography; I also give lectures on geographies of nature and the environment. I oversee the School's undergraduate programmes in my role as Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Education and qualifications
- 2012: Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education, Aberystwyth University
- 2004: PhD Human Geography, University of Aberdeen
- 1999: MA (Hons) Geography, University of Aberdeen
- Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- Member of the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
- Member of the Research Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Food
- Member of the Food Security and Land Research Alliance
- Member of the St David's Day Water Research Consortium
- 2012-2015: Lecturer in Human Geography, Cardiff University
- 2009-2012: Lecturer in Human Geography, Aberystwyth University
- 2006-2008: Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Durham University
- 2004-2008: Research Associate, Department of Geography, University of Hull
- 2002-2004: Teaching Fellow, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen
- 'Towards 'the good insect': experimentation and breeding in the UK's emerging edible insect sector' – invited paper, Changing animal bodies: animal breeding in changing social and environmental contexts , Uppsala University, Sweden, May 2018
- 'Caring for crickets: care and empathy in edible insect production' - Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, London, August 2017
- 'Resisting robots: automated milking and emerging geographies of more-than-human resistance' (with Lewis Holloway) – Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, London, August 2016
- ‘Animals in “social” research: exploring the more-than-human geographies of robotic milking’ – invited seminar, Scotland’s Rural College, January 2015
- ‘From 'background noise' to 'polluters': siting and tracing animals in the fluid ecologies of the EU Bathing Water Directive’ – More-than-human legalities: advocating an animal turn in law, State University of New York, Buffalo, USA, September 2014
- 'Relationships Between Humans, Animals and Technology What behaviors are expected from the cows and humans in a dairy using robotic milking, and how are farming routines and activities changed?' - invited webinar, Pennsylvania State University, March 2014
- Invited panellist in discussion of the film Blackfish at Somerset House, London, October 2013, as part of the Inside Out Festival (a collaboration between Passengerfilms and the Culture Capital Exchange)
- ‘Beyond the bucolic rural: Robot milking barns and more-than-human co-productions of interior farming spaces’ (with Lewis Holloway) – Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, London, August 2013
- ‘Reconfiguring users in automated farming: cows, farmers and robotic milking’ - invited seminar, Department of Geography, Edinburgh University, April 2013
- ‘Reconfiguring users in automated farming: cows, farmers and robotic milking’ - invited seminar, Department of Geography, Swansea University, March 2013
- ‘Robotic milking technologies and the renegotiation of situated ethical relationships on UK dairy farms’ – Farm, British Animal Studies Network, Glasgow, November 2012
- ‘Robotic milking technologies and the renegotiation of situated ethical relationships on UK dairy farms’ (with Lewis Holloway and Katy Wilkinson) – invited seminar, Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, November 2011
- ‘Remaking agricultural collectives: robotic milking and the co-constitution of humans, dairy cows and technologies’ (with Lewis Holloway and Katy Wilkinson) – Annual Meeting of the Association of Social Anthropologists, Lampeter, September 2011
- ‘Robotic milking and the emergent relational geographies of livestock agriculture’ (with Lewis Holloway and Katy Wilkinson) – Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Seattle, USA, April 2011
Committees and reviewing
- 2018 - present: External Examiner, MA Practising Human Geography, Aberystwyth University
- 2016 - present: Associate Editor, Society and Animals
- 2012 - 2015: Committee Member (subsequently Treasurer) of the Royal Geographical Society Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
- 2015 - present: Member of the Water Research Institute Management Board
- 2016 - present: Chair of the Undergraduate Management Team
- 2016 - present: Member of the Learning and Teaching Strategy Group
- 2016 - present: Member of the School Board
- 2016 - present: Director of Undergraduate Studies
- 2016 - 2017: Member of the Marketing and Communications Management Group
- 2014 - 2016: Senior Admissions Tutor
My current teaching focuses on geographies of nature and on the history and philosophy of geography, particularly through:
- CP0142 - The Big Questions in Human Geography (lecture on Animal Geographies)
- CP0253 - Geographical Ideas (module leader)
I am also Director of Undergraduate Studies for the School of Geography and Planning.
My research focuses on the interlinked themes of: human-animal-technology relations; aquatic geographies; and geographies of knowledge and expertise. These foci are permeated by a theoretical interest in hybridity and assemblage and are often studied through an empirical concentration on recreational activities and the changing agro-food system.
1. Human-animal-technology relations
I developed an interest in more-than-human geographies during my PhD, which examined the different ways in which salmon were experienced and accounted for in the management of Scottish river fishing. Much of my subsequent research has focused on relationships between animals and humans in diverse contexts such as commercial and recreational fisheries, an aquarium, and dairy farms. My work on robotic milking on dairy farms, conducted in collaboration with Lewis Holloway (University of Hull) and supported by an ESRC grant, examined the co-production of robots, dairy cows and humans, looking at how the introduction of robotic milking may change the ways dairy farmers manage their farms and businesses, and might affect the farmer-cow relationship. I previously examined anglers' conceptualisations of fish as individuals and collectives, developing Deleuze and Guattari's concept of 'becoming animal' and Haraway's notion of 'beings-in-encounter'. I also recently completed research into the co-production of scallop fishing regulations in Cardigan Bay by humans, scallops, dolphins and fishing technologies, examined through the conceptual framework of geographies of assemblage. I am increasingly interested in developing less anthropocentric research methods that are suited to the study of more-than-human relationships. I have developed this research theme more widely, co-convening sessions on Emerging geographies of animal-technology co-productions at the 2011 Royal Geographical Society annual conference (published as a special issue of Journal of Rural Studies in 2014), Critical perspectives on human-animal-technology relations for the British Animal Studies Network in November 2012, and Geographies of more-than-human empathy at the 2017 Royal Geographical Society annual conference.
- Bear, C. and Holloway, L. (2018; invited contribution) Redistributing labour in Automated Milking Systems and the more-than-human (co)production of dairy farming in Marsden, T (ed) The Sage Handbook of Nature London: Sage 831-847
- Holloway, L. and Bear, C. (2017). Bovine and human becomings in histories of dairy technologies: robotic milking systems and remaking animal and human subjectivity. BJHS Themes (10.1017/bjt.2017.2.)
- Bear, C., Wilkinson, K. and Holloway, L. (2016) Visualising human-animal-technology relations: fieldnotes, still photography and digital video on the robotic dairy farm. Society and Animals
- Bear, C. and Holloway, L. (2015) Country life: agricultural technologies and the emergence of new rural subjectivities. Geography Compass 9(5): 303-315
- Holloway, L., Bear, C., Morris, C. and Wilkinson, K. (2014) Animals, technologies and people in rural spaces: Introduction to a special issue on emerging geographies of animal-technology co-productions [Editorial]. Journal of Rural Studies 33(1): 95-98
- Holloway, L., Bear, C. and Wilkinson, K. (2014) Re-capturing bovine life: robot-cow relationships, freedom and control in dairy farming Journal of Rural Studies 33(1): 131-140
- Bear, C. (2013) Assembling the sea: entanglement, movement and uncertainty in the Cardigan Bay scallop fishery Cultural Geographies 20(1): 21-41
- Holloway, L. and Bear, C. (2011) Commentary: DNA-typing and super dairies - changing practices and remaking cows Environment and Planning A43(7): 1487-1491
- Bear, C. (2011) Being Angelica: exploring post-species animal geographies Area 43(3): 297-304
- Bear, C. and Eden, S. (2011) Thinking like a fish? Engaging with non-human difference through recreational angling Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(2): 336-352
2. Aquatic geographies
My research is unusual in cultural geography for its focus on environmental change in the aquatic. This research theme, developed in my PhD, has been taken forward through the RELU-funded Angling in the Rural Environment project, on which I worked as a Research Associate at the Universities of Hull and Durham. This work, with Sally Eden (University of Hull), looked at the different knowledge practices employed by a variety of river users, such as anglers and scientists, in making sense of, engaging with and transforming the underwater environment. I have further critiqued cultural geographers' disregard for underwater environments through studying an aquarium octopus. My recent research on scallop fisheries extends my conceptualisation of ocean space, having previously adopted a topological approach to Marine Stewardship Council certification practices. I co-convened a Royal Geographical Society annual conference session on the aquatic in 2008, resulting in a special issue of Environment and Planning A, which I co-edited with Jacob Bull (Gender Studies, Uppsala University).
- Bear, C. (2017; invited contribution) Commentary: Assembling ocean life: more-than-human entanglements in the Blue Economy Dialogues in Human Geography 7(1): 27-31
- Bear, C. (2016) Tracing bacterial legalities: the fluid ecologies of the European Union's bathing water directive. In: Braverman, I. ed. Animals, Biopolitics, Law: Lively Legalities. London: Routledge, pp. 79-98
- Bear, C. (2014) Governance of the seas: a more-than-human perspective in Peters, K. and Anderson, J. (eds) Water Worlds: social and cultural geographies of the ocean Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 137-162
- Bear, C. (2013) Assembling the sea: entanglement, movement and uncertainty in the Cardigan Bay scallop fishery Cultural Geographies 20(1): 21-41
- Bear, C. and Bull, J. (2011) Editorial: the matter of water Environment and Planning A 43(10): 2261-2266
- Eden, S. and Bear, C. (2011) Reading the river through 'watercraft': environmental engagement through knowledge and practice in freshwater angling Cultural Geographies18(3): 297-314
- Bear, C. and Eden, S. (2008) Making space for fish: the regional, network and fluid spaces of fisheries certification Social and Cultural Geography 9: 487-504
3. Geographies of knowledge and expertise
Again developed in my PhD, much of my interest in expertise has been explored through the aquatic. This work has broken down the binary of 'lay' and 'expert' knowledges, looking at how claims are circulated and challenged in the contexts of agro-food systems and recreational fisheries management. In the former area, the work I carried out with Sally Eden examined how knowledges of food travel, focusing on consumer understandings of certification labels, while my more recent work on robotic milking has looked at the role of automation and information technologies in changing how cows are known and cared for on farms. In the latter area, recent papers have examined the notion of 'lay ecologies', and at how anglers participate in the management of water environments.
- Butler, D., Holloway, L and Bear, C. (2012) The impact of technological change in dairy farming: robotic milking systems and the changing role of the stockperson Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 173: 1-6
- Eden, S. and Bear, C. (2012) The good, the bad, and the hands-on: constructs of public participation, anglers, and lay management of water environments Environment and Planning A 44: 1200-1240
- Eden, S. and Bear, C. (2011) Models of equilibrium, natural agency and environmental change: lay ecologies in UK recreational angling Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers36(3): 393-407
- Eden, S. and Bear, C. (2010) Third sector global environmental governance, space and science: comparing fishery and forestry certification Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 12(1): 83-106
- Eden, S., Bear, C. and Walker, G. (2008) The sceptical consumer: UK views about food assurance Food Policy 33: 624-630
- Eden, S., Bear, C. and Walker, G. (2008) Mucky carrots and other proxies: problematising the knowledge-fix for sustainable and ethical consumptionGeoforum 39 (2): 1044-1057
- Eden, S., Bear, C. and Walker, G. (2008) Understanding and (dis)trusting food assurance schemes: consumer confidence and the 'knowledge fix'Journal of Rural Studies 24 (1): 1-14
- Bear, C. (2006) Salmon by numbers: quantification and understandings of nature Scottish Geographical Journal 122 (3): 185-203
- Robotic and information technologies in livestock agriculture: new relationships between humans, cows and machines (co-investigator), June 2010 - November 2012, ESRC RES-062-23-2086 - £145,223.84
Conference and Workshop Organisation
- Co-convener and co-chair of a session on More-than-human geographies of empathy at the RGS-IBG Conference, London, 2017 (with Megan Donald [Glasgow University] and Rich Gorman [Exeter University])
- Co-convener and chair of a session on Social and cultural geographies of impact at the RGS-IBG Conference, Edinburgh, 2012 (with Amanda Rogers [Swansea University], Sarah Mills [Loughborough University], Mia Hunt [Royal Holloway, University of London] and Rebecca Sandover [Exeter University]). I subsequently co-edited a special issue of ACME that resulted from this session.
- Convener of a session on Critical perspectives on human-animal-technology relationships at the British Animal Studies Network conference on 'Farm', Strathclyde University, November 2012.
- Co-organiser of a session on Emerging geographies of animal-technology co-productions at the RGS-IBG Conference, London, 2011 (with Lewis Holloway [University of Hull], Carol Morris [Nottingham University] and Katy Wilkinson [University of Hull]).
- Member of the organising committee of Geography and the New Empirics (a Social and Cultural Geography Research Group workshop), Royal Geographical Society, London, January 2011. I also led a workshop session on Generating and gathering data in face of excess, in collaboration with Owain Jones (CCRI).
- Co-organiser of a session on Water: Space, Knowledge, Flow at the RGS-IBG Conference, London, 2008 (with Jacob Bull [Uppsala University]).
I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:
- Animal geographies
- Environmental knowledges
- Contested knowledges within the food system
- Fisheries management
- Rural studies
- Livestock production
- Edible insects
I am always happy to discuss initial ideas with prospective PhD students; please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.