This fieldwork will form the constitutive part of my PhD in Social Anthropology and so will involve me living and working in Andalucía for between a year and 15 months. The longer the better, so I can more fully capture the annual cycle of the bull-breeding industry. My previous fieldwork project was in Eastern Mongolia, where I followed the lives of humans, horses and dogs. My focus has now shifted to humans, bulls and horses in Spain. I’m interested in how bull-breeding and horse-keeping fits into the Spanish countryside and small town life. More grandly speaking, I’ll be trying to grasp the world of the bulls from the perspective of the professionals whose daily existences revolve about these incredible animals. This includes vets, foremen, owners, other regular and irregular staff and also the inhabitants of the area. I’ll be based in Villamanrique de la Condesa, not far from where my core hosts in the bull-breeding world, Partido de Resina (formerly Pablo Romero), produce the most beautiful bulls of the Spanish countryside.
My aim is not to define what the bulls are all about or why the ‘bullfight’* exists in the 21st century, but rather to ask how the bulls exist in the Spanish countryside and ultimately in the arena. What technologies help them get there? How do they exist for the law, in landscapes, for vets, for the people who handle them everyday? How has the financial crisis played out in the world of the bulls? What difference might the popular legislative proposal to protect this world make if or even when it gets through the Spanish senate? What about efforts to broaden taurine involvement with tourism or efforts to solidify the relationship between the bulls and the much vaunted biodiversity of the Spanish dehesa landscape? How are the anti-bullfighting voices clamouring at the gates of the arena heard here? I’m not here in the sevillana marshlands to pin down the phenomena that are the bulls and their world, there are already myriad commentators both within and without Spain trying to do just that. Rather, I’m here to try and productively juxtapose the constraints, possibilities and competing futures that face the bulls and their associated humans. In light of this, I’m not working with the biggest players in the bull-breeding, raising and fighting sphere. Nor am I living in the most bull-centric town in Spain. Rather, mine are the messy edges where struggle, hope and history sit alongside each other. Where orange groves and bull-breeding estates are adjacent to one another and where the lads who work on the ranches are also closely tied to the life of their town and lives of their horses.
In terms of methods, even for an anthropologist I have a very hands-on research orientation and so will be apprenticing myself as far as possible as a bull-handler, veterinary assistant and as a young man living among the ‘Manriqueños’ of Villamanrique. As such my project will consist of listening to, observing and working alongside a range of experts, both in their professional and broader lives.
Such a project is of course not possible without the close collaboration of the people, animals and institutions whose lives I am studying. I am deeply grateful to those in Villamanrique de la Condesa and Partido de Resina who have already begun to give me access to their world.
Feel free to ask any questions about the project.
*As many anthropologists and other commentators have pointed out ‘bullfight’ or ‘bullfighting’ is a very poor and misleading translation and description of the events that bring bulls and humans together in Spain. Like it or lump it, the term is probably here to stay in the anglophone world though.
Having graduated from Cambridge, with a degree in Social Anthropology, in 2012 I started a Masters and PhD at the University of St Andrews, generously funded by the ESRC. I’m now doing the fieldwork component of that PhD. Starting at St Andrews marked a return to home to Scotland, where I grew up with my brothers and eternally eccentric mother, travel writer Lucy Irvine who can be found at http://castawaylucyirvine.wordpress.com and on facebook as Castaway Lucy.
If you’re interested in this background, then you can find more information through the links below.
For the castaway connection, see:
For the Cambridge years, see my undergraduate ‘diary’ and an article I did about my research for a series called ‘extreme sleepovers’:
Also, here is a piece I did for Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ during my 2011 undergraduate fieldwork in Mongolia:
For the three years prior to Cambridge after finishing up at Ullapool High School, see these amazing websites and people to get an idea of what I got up to: