Dr Amanda Rees



  • MA, PhD (Cantab)

Born in Port Talbot, South Wales (an ex-steel town on the coast) and educated at Cambridge University, Amanda was confronted by social inequality and power differentials at a young age, and ascribes her interest in sociology to these early experiences. This was exacerbated by the short time she spent as a civil servant towards the end of the Conservative era. As far as her academic career goes, a period at Harvard was sandwiched in between an undergraduate and graduate degree at Cambridge before arriving in York in 1998.

Clearly, she has been deeply interested in the history of primatology, but insists that she can put this aside anytime she likes. Unfortunately, she never met Jane Goodall. Or an ape, for that matter.

She has no particular hobbies, only vices – in particular, that of reading science fiction rather than getting on with her life.



Amanda is especially interested in supervising doctoral students in any of the following research areas:

The sociology of the human/animal relation
  • why has the pet population expanded so immensely over the course of the 20th century? What consequences will the tremendous growth in the numbers of livestock animals have for the health of the human population? Why can we see natural history documentaries on our televisions almost every night of the week?
Doing field science
  • how is it possible for ‘scientific knowledge’ to emerge from field sites? These places are messy, unique, they have no boundaries, and no control can be exerted over them – and yet, somehow, the operators of these sites manage to elicit from them information that can be transformed into universal truth. Who runs these sites? What are their characteristics? How does a field site in the Amazon differ from one in the Arctic?
The public presentation of scientific knowledge
  • how does ‘scientific’ information move from its creators to the general publics? What impact does popular science have on ‘real’ science, and how can we differentiate between the two?
The history of ‘natural history’
  • or in other words, the study of whole animals, their behaviour and ecology (in contrast to the ‘gene’s-eye-view’ that dominated the 20 th century). What contribution has the study of animal behaviour made to human society and to sociology itself as a discipline?
Representations of science in fiction
  • how have authors used scientific knowledge in their narratives? How has science fiction in particular contributed to the development of science itself?


Selected publications

  • Rees, A (2009) The Infanticide Controversy: primatology and the art of field science Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Rees, A (2009) 'The undead Darwin: iconic narrative, scientific controversy and the history of science', History of Science 47:445-457
  • Rees, A ‘Reflections on the field – primatology, popular science and the politics of personhood’, Social Studies of Science, (2007) 37: 881-907
  • Rees, A ‘If they’re so smart, why can’t they talk? Science and the study of primate minds in the home, the laboratory and the field’, Bulletin d'histoire et d'épistémologie des sciences de la vie 14 (2007) 163-184
  • Jackson, S & A Rees ‘The appalling appeal of nature: the popular influence of evolutionary biology as a problem for sociology’, Sociology 41 (2007) 917-930
  • Rees, A 'Ecology, biology and social life: explaining the origins of primate sociality', History of Science, 44(2006) 409-434
  • Rees, A 'A place that answers questions: primatological field sites and the making of authentic observations', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science C, 37 (2006) 311-333
  • Rees, A & G Radick 'Fielding the question - primatological research in historical perspective: Introduction', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science C, 37 (2006) 269-272
  • Rees, A ‘Practising infanticide, observing narrative: controversial texts in a field science’, Social Studies of Science, 31(2001) 507-31
  • Rees, A ‘Anthropomorphism, anthropocentrism and anecdote: primatologists on primatology’, Science, Technology and Human Values, 26 (2001) 227-247
  • Rees, A ‘Higamous, hogamous, woman monogamous’, Feminist Theory, 1: (2000) 365-370

Contact details

Dr Amanda Rees
Department of Sociology
University of York
Wentworth College
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 433054