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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: pests, space, and knowledge in multispecies landscapes, 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) ; alternate jules.skotnes.brown(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. 

In my PhD, I chart 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 elephants, birdlife, tsetse-flies, and wild-rodents, I examine 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 forms of knowledge typically considered outside of science such as 'indigenous knowledge' and ‘folk biology’ intermingled with the sciences, but necessarily complicate the boundaries between them. Likewise, I attempt to demonstrate the influence of nonhuman agents in the sciences and on the environment, without de-emphasising the destructive and dehumanising role played by European humans in southern African history.

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.



Skotnes-Brown, Jules. 2020. "Domestication, degeneration, and the establishment of the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa, 1910s-1930s', The Historical Journal.  

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

Skotnes-Brown, Jules. 2020. 'Wildness and Domesticity: the Addo Elephant National Park in early 20th century South Africa', Cambridge Core Blog. 

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

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



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