Maisie Tomlinson

Staff details

Position ESRC SeNSS Post-Doctoral Fellow
Department Sociology
Email m.tomlinson (
Maisie Tomlinson

Maisie is an ESRC SeNSS Post-Doctoral Fellow mentored by Dr Mariam Motamedi-Fraser, and is working on disseminating PhD research in the sociology of human-animal relations undertaken at the University of Manchester. Her research explores, through ethnographic engagement, the epistemologies and ontologies of professional animal behaviour experts, and the implications of that knowledge for animal agency, subjectivity, and the human-animal relationship. She has a particular interest in the rise of “critical anthropomorphism”, a methodological approach which balances qualitative, “anthropomorphic” interpretations of animal behaviour with some kind of “critical” check on that interpretation – often scientific, but sometimes attentional or phenomenological. Fascinated by the possibilities of, and problems with, multi-species ethnography, Maisie runs workshops in how the experience of nonhuman animals might be more closely attended to, and her Fellowship will extend this interest.

Research interests

Located in the sociology of human-animal relations, Maisie’s work explores the ontologies and epistemologies of animal behaviour expertise, as practiced on the ground by professionals in different contexts; and the wider implications for social understandings of animal subjectivities and the lived experience of human-animal relationships.

She has a particular interest in the rise of so-called "critical anthropomorphism", and her current research compares two case studies which share a belief in the validity of using qualitative, so-called “anthropomorphic” interpretations of other species, if certain “critical" checks on that interpretation are applied. One is the teaching of horse behaviour and communication using the “felt sense” in an Equine-Assisted Personal Development site; and the other follows the development of an existing scientific animal welfare methodology, Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA), as a tool for laboratory mouse welfare assessment. Maisie explores the tensions between the “critical” and the “anthropomorphic”, self and other, human and animal in these practices.

Her specialisms include animal subjectivity, “anthropomorphism”, posthumanism, sensory methodologies and multi-species ethnography.

Publications and research outputs

Further profile content

Professional projects

Maisie’s work in human-animal relations is complemented by seven years as a professional animal welfare campaigner, where the production of knowledge about animals is often contested for its ethical implications. She was the director and co-founder of Crustacean Compassion, an award-winning campaign for the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, crayfish) and their inclusion in the definition of “animal” in UK animal welfare law.

Maisie’s prior training and work as a professional actor (Maisie Bryceland) has shaped her methodological interests and research collaborations. These include:

• Working alongside Profs Les Back and Michaela Benson at Goldsmiths to develop the Fieldwork Fables series of films for teaching social research students
• Performing on “Going Home”, a series of short stories on egg sharing as part of IVF, written by scholar and author Becky Tipper and based on research by Drs Petra Nordqvist and Leah Gilman at the University of Manchester