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Intimate entanglements in the animal house: caring for and about mice

Friese, Carrie ORCID: 0000-0001-7144-8046 (2019) Intimate entanglements in the animal house: caring for and about mice. Sociological Review, 67 (2). 287 - 298. ISSN 0038-0261

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0038026119829753


This article presents two vignettes from ethnographic research conducted in a ‘biological services unit’ or mouse house at a life sciences research institute in the UK. I focus on the ‘intimate knowledge’ two animal technicians demonstrated as crucial to care for the mice, where affective knowledge operated alongside scientific knowledge of animal welfare and administrative knowledge of keeping laboratory animals. I then show how caring for and about laboratory mice entailed caring about various other things, things that could help improve the lives of the mice. I thematize how the animal technicians ‘care about’ mice, using Astrid Schrader’s twin conceptions of compassion and ‘abyssal intimacy’. However, unlike Schrader and much of the literature focusing on the centrality of ‘sacrifice’ in scientific research involving laboratory animals, I contend that compassion is not centrally informed by death as the abyss here. Rather, the violent relatedness of being replaceable forms the abyss that makes compassion possible. It was the fact of caring about those with whom one becomes so intimately entangled, within the context of paid labour where one is replaceable, that formed the basis for compassion between animal technicians, mice and myself.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 Sage
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2019 13:03
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2023 11:18

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