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Jules Skotnes-Brown

PhD student

College: Christ's
Supervisor: Richard Staley, Jim Secord
Thesis topic: Conserving, Categorising, and Commodifying South African Nature: economic zoology, epidemiology, ecology, and environmentalism in rural South Africa, c. 1890s-1930s.
Research interests: history of natural history and environmental sciences, environmental history, science communication, African history, 'non-western science', animal histories, museums and exhibitions
Email: jasb2(at)

I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) in 2015, and graduated with an MSc in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at the University of Oxford in 2017. I study histories of natural history, ecology, and epidemiology in southern Africa, c. 1890s-1930s with a focus on the relationship between wild animals, pest control, agriculture, zoonotic diseases, animal conservation and industrialisation. 

My broader PhD charts the construction of physical and conceptual boundaries between humans and other animals, wild and domestic, protected and pest, and the consequences of crossing such boundaries in South Africa (1890s-1930s). With case studies spanning birdlife, tsetse-flies, elephants, and wild-rodents, it examines how wildlife was commodified, categorised, conserved, or exterminated on rural inner-frontiers, and how spheres of ‘nature’ and ‘civilisation’ were constructed and reconciled. I am particularly interested in how the sciences, 'indigenous knowledge', and so-called folk biology intermingled, but necessarily complicate the boundaries between these forms of knowledge.

I have previously worked on (and remain interested in) histories of British imperialism and representation. Here I have written on twentieth-century international expositions, and twenty-first century videogames. I am also interested in the possibilities digital media provides for telling new kinds of histories.


Peer-reviewed articles

Skotnes-Brown, Jules. "From the White Man's Grave to the White Man's Home: Experiencing Tropical Africa at the 1924-5 British Empire Exhibition", Science Museum Group Journal 11, Spring 2019. Winner of the SMG Journal Writing Prize 2018

Skotnes-Brown, Jules. 2019. 'Colonized Play: Racism, Sexism, and Colonial Legacies in the Dota 2 South Africa Gaming Community', in Phillip Penix-Tadsen, Video Games and the Global South (Carnegie Mellon, ETC Press)


Public engagement and other writing

'Tsetse-fly case', University of Cape Town: Object Ecologies Project, 2018

Staley, Richard and Skotnes-Brown, Jules. 2019. ‘“Humans have long thought that people could change the climate through altering the environment” Interview with Dr Richard Staley, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, UK’, 42 Magazine, Volume 4, July 2019



2018 Science Museum Group Writing Prize for my article 'From the White Man's Grave to the White Man's Home: Experiencing Tropical Africa at the 1924-25 British Empire Exhibition'

2018 Best Dissertation in Cohort Prize for my MSc Dissertation, Oxford History Faculty

2012-14 Class medals for highest grade in four courses, University of Cape Town

2012 Highest Grade Point Average in second year Bachelor of Arts, University of Cape Town

Jules Skotnes-Brown