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Rivke Jaffe, professor of Urban Geography at the UvA, has been awarded an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Th grant, which amounts to 2.5 million euros, will allow her to conduct research into the role that animals play in the development of urban inequalities.

Rivke Jaffe (photo: Dirk Gillissen)

In her project 'Political Animals: A More-than-Human Approach to Urban Inequalities' (ANIMAPOLIS), Jaffe will examine the role of animals in the formation of urban inequalities, asking: How do animals’ interactions with humans and infrastructures co-produce the unequal distribution of risks and resources across urban spaces and populations? The project focuses on two critical urban domains, security and public health, that are often characterised by stark inequalities, and takes the role of key animals within these domains – dogs and rats, respectively – as a unique analytical entry-point.

Political animals

Urban inequalities are not only produced by people. Security dogs are socialized to identify threatening individuals on the basis of classed and raced markers. Rats pose a public health risk, and thrive in low-income areas with decaying sanitation infrastructure. Urban scholars have begun to highlight the importance of infrastructures and technologies in configuring access to essential goods and services. While this research provides key insights into how nonhuman entities mediate unequal relations, it has largely overlooked how certain animals – political animals – also co-produce inequalities.


Dogs and rats clearly play a role within security and public health, but we know little about how they mediate related inequalities. Through what mechanisms might security dogs co-produce practices of racial profiling, or distributions of rats and rodenticides affect public health outcomes? ANIMAPOLIS will study such mechanisms through detailed multispecies ethnographies that focus first, on dogs’ and rats’ biological specificities and cultural imaginaries and second, on the spatial, material and affective dimensions of their interactions with humans and infrastructure.

Jaffe is the third UvA scientist to be awarded an Advanced Grant this year. The grants for Han van der Maas and Amade M'charek were announced in April.