The New Yorker features St Cross Fellow's contribution

st cross college by john cairns 8 3 24 171

Photo Credit : © John Cairns


Professor Eben Kirksey, St Cross College Fellow, recently contributed to an article featured in the world-renowned magazine The New Yorker, which was first founded in 1925. 

The article delves into the world of designer ball pythons, highlighting their popularity among reptile enthusiasts and the intricate breeding practices that produce unique and coveted morphs. It explores the allure of these snakes as pets, their aesthetic appeal, and the controversies surrounding the breeding industry, including ethical concerns and debates over genetic manipulation. Through interviews with breeders and collectors, the piece offers insight into the subculture surrounding designer ball pythons, revealing a complex intersection of commerce, passion, and ethical dilemmas.  

Within the article, Prof Kirksey emphasizes the importance of seeing beyond the monetary value of colourful snakes and providing suitable habitats beyond basic enclosures. Despite breeders discussing burrowing, he notes that the enclosures often fall short of meeting natural needs, raising questions about the snakes' well-being. 

In his book "Emergent Ecologies," Prof. Kirskey delves deeper into the issue of consumer values, particularly regarding novelty, which leads to the importation of millions of animals annually into the United States. This practice, fuelled by the desire for novelty, contributes to a global illegal wildlife trade that rivals the narcotics industry in profitability, as stated by EcoHealth Alliance. Alongside this illicit market exists a regulated one for wildlife importers and breeders. Florida's legal landscape stands out, allowing exotic animals to be treated as property within the moral framework of human homes, reflecting a laissez-faire economic environment. 

Prof Kirksey, a cultural anthropologist, is renowned for his work in multispecies ethnography, integrating animals, microbes, plants, and fungi into environmental anthropology and sociology of science. His latest book, "The Mutant Project" (2020), explores science and social justice, focusing on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in China. A British Marshall Scholar at Oxford, he obtained his PhD from UC Santa Cruz. He has taught at esteemed institutions like Princeton, Deep Springs College and helped establish the Environmental Humanities program at UNSW Sydney in Australia. His ongoing collaborations include work with the Alfred Deakin Institute in Melbourne. 


You can read the full article here.