Current Postgraduate Researchers
My project proposes to investigate how engaging with the death of companion animals can be an educative/philosophical encounter, mapping often-overlooked death-life stories with animal family members in Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing from Eastern paradigms, post-humanist theories and new material feminist ideas, my study attempts to elaborate the way in which death may allow us to inhabit a conceptual space to think about life, death, human and more-than-human others in relation to one another, exploring concepts of family and death of the loved ones as sites of political and ethical resistance to our human-centred and progress-obsessed mental habits.
Kirsty Dunn (Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa) is a PhD candidate in English. Her doctoral thesis analyses, from a kaupapa Māori perspective, representations of animals and human-animal relationships in Māori writing in English; she has also completed research projects regarding Māori perspectives on veganism and plant-based kai and is interested in indigenous food sovereignty and food decolonization. Kirsty completed her Master’s thesis Inherit the World, Devour the Earth: Representations of Western Meat Production and Consumption in Contemporary Fiction at the University of Canterbury in 2015.
I was raised aboard a whale research vessel in Southeast Alaska and through many childhood encounters with humpback whales, I developed a fascination and deep admiration for the species. After spending so many years captivated by these magnificent animals, and having become familiar with them as individuals, I wanted to be personally involved in their protection. With an increasing awareness of anthropogenic threats facing our world’s cetaceans, interdisciplinary research supporting whale conservation efforts is needed, bringing together the biological and social sciences to identify strategies which aid in protection and conservation efforts. My research interests include multi-species ethnography, animal protection, compassionate conservation, and the narrative biographies of individual animals. I would like to explore the efficaciousness of ‘individuation’ to affect change in human behaviour and the potential to increase motivation and willingness to engage with environmental and animal protection issues. I am also interested in examining critical anthropomorphism, egomorphism, and biophilia as strategies for increasing empathic connection to other species and promoting conservation and animal protection efforts. I will be engaging in field research with an endangered subpopulation of humpback whales in Oceanic waters and the biologists working for their protection. I hope to re-frame individual animals as the subjects of their own lives through biographical accounts, and to examine whether or not this strategy could elicit engagement with animal activism and foster a greater empathic connection with whales.
Éilis (Eilish) is a PhD candidate in human-animal studies at UC. Her proposed project involves a sociocultural and political analysis of human-animal relationships in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, exploring how reductionist attitudes towards nonhuman animals inform mainstream culture in Aotearoa. Her research interests include ecofeminism, gender studies, queer theory, meat culture, climate justice, and veganism (and all the intersectioanlities between them...!). She completed a Master’s of Policy and Governance in 2019 with a dissertation thesis titled Interspecies Sustainable Development: intersectional empathetic approaches to food and climate justice.
My research reflects my applied interest dog behaviour, a field where I work as a consultant and educator. My mission is helping people improve their relationships with their dogs. I am an advocate for humane training and improving our perception of dog culture so that our dogs have the best possible quality of life.
The human-dog interspecies relationship is unique: dogs and humans have evolved along side one another, sharing the same environmental niche for thousands of years. Dogs have the ability to interpret our slightest gestures, to read our facial expressions, and respond to the subtle tones in our voice. Because of these invaluable abilities, dogs have been bred selectively to benefit our needs. Despite this, not all human-dog relationships are positive. In order to understand why some relationship’s fail, it is important to first disentangle the underpinnings of how these relationships affect all members.
Currently, most social science-oriented research focuses on the human benefit of pet ownership or how humans are affected by the dogs in their lives. Alternatively, most ethological studies examining canine behaviour do not include the human member within the relationship or the household dynamic as confounding variables, creating a blanket assumption about “the dog”. To further understand why some human relationships negatively impact dogs, we need to be able to create a connection between cognitive behavioural studies and social science as a way to address such vexing ethical terrain. To do so, we need to understand what social constructs have created “the dog” and the impact our interactions have on “the dog” in order to improve their emotional welfare. I use a mixed methodological approach of merging social science and cognitive behavioural research, by addressing the societal norms surrounding who is “the dog”, how this impacts the adoption of humane training, and the interjection of knowledge used to facilitate an augmentation of both consent and autonomy.
The welfare of companion dogs must extend beyond simply providing adequate amenities and provisions; it needs to also consider the psychological effects of training and management, both positive (clarifying the conversation) and negative (dictation and limitations of conformity). Collectively, this will contribute to the research backing a standardization and regulation within both the welfare sector, and the dog training industry.
PhD Candidate, University of Canterbury
MSc Canisius College (Anthrozoology)
BSc Trent University (Psychology & Anthropology)
Professional memberships: AASA, APDTNZ
My current research is a synthesis of my various passions in history, literature, and animal studies. I aim to explore the potentials of posthumanism and intersectionality as a framework for literary analysis to move beyond problematic anthropocentric readings and reveal the fluidity of ontological boundaries. Specifically, I examine human-animal hybrids in science fiction and fantasy literature from 1890 to the early 1930s to delineate pervading assumptions of humanity and animality. The primary texts include works from seminal authors such as H.G. Wells and Mikhail Bulgakov, as well as the widely read science fictions of H.P Lovecraft, Alexander Belyaev, Karel Capek and Arthur Conan Doyle. In the texts under investigation, science, politics and arts intersect in the image of hybrid beings that couples both human and non-human beings into a single organism. The metamorphosis of human-animal hybrids witnessed here express wider notions of degeneration, social Darwinism, and transhumanism, thus necessitating an intersectional framework that recognises the complexities of such an examination in order to reveal deeper understandings of humans, animals and their interrelationships.
Raised by the black cat that kept away ignorant humans, I am keen to return the favour by addressing ethical issues tied to companion animals' representation on social media. In my PhD research, I focus on profiles featuring talking animals. Banned as unauthentic less than a decade ago, pet influencers create a new site for affective labour nowadays. Image-based participatory platforms allow us to develop synthetic personalities that combine the appearance of a cute pet and our capability for verbal expression. The practice of speaking for and through animals transforms them into a medium for promoting different ideas, values, products, and services. I study this phenomenon to explain how its obscured agencies shape our attitude towards nonhuman others and map the conditions in which individual voices standing behind animal narrators serve agendas of neoliberal superstructures operating through new technologies. Understanding how this practice unfolds under algorithmic governance and what kind of world-building it does will allow the identification of veiled forms of abuse coinciding with specific patterns of speaking on behalf of animals. In my PhD project, I continue my previous studies of abusive pet-making by exploring the possibilities for critical theory to engage with pretending-to-be-animal speech. In the MA dissertation, I argued that companion species are validated by neoliberal cultures primarily as affective labourers, therefore exploited to evoke strong sentiment and commitment. This makes them subjects to cuteness engineering, a process of altering their anatomy and behavioural traits aimed at creating literal 'furkids'. Their voices go through a similar transformation, affecting our attitude to all animals, be they 'privileged' or despised.
MA in Contemporary Art Theory, Goldsmiths, University of London
Specialist degree in Art History, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow
While growing up in rural Canada, I always felt like my sensitive emotions and overwhelming compassion for animals was out-of-place. They created a heavy, immeasurable weight that seemed to only be visible to me; I did not understand why only I seemed to recognize and understand animal injustices occurring all around me and why no one else appeared to care. Luckily, I had the serendipitous introduction to animal geography in one of my Human Geography undergraduate courses (it was a blurb on a single slide!), which led to my Master’s in Anthrozoology, and to my current educational venture, my PhD research in Human-Animal Studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Suddenly, this burden of emotion and compassion became one of my strongest qualities as a Critical Animal Studies scholar looking at a myriad of animal issues. With particular interest in speciesism, wildlife/pet trade, wildlife rehabilitation and release, compassionate conservation, and intersectionality, I am currently researching speciesism and pest control within the New Zealand archipelago, looking at how various educational sites where native/non-native animals perpetuate certain beliefs about what animals ‘belong’ in New Zealand and what animals do not. With a focus on positive empathy and compassionate conservation, I am interested in starting a discussion on how ‘pest’ animals are (mis)treated within New Zealand, signalling how this reflects a larger narrative of what (human/non-human) bodies ‘belong’ in New Zealand, seeking to provide tangible solutions to warm the cross-species intolerance on an individual (and ultimately, national) scale.
PhD Candidate, University of Canterbury
MA Anthrozoology, University of Exeter
BAH Geography, Queen's University
Member of New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies
Roots & Shoots Coordinator Canterbury, Jane Goodall Institute
Member of Australasian Animal Studies Association
A current Masters student at UC, I am deeply passionate about academia and education and intend to pursue my PhD in 2022. Although based within literary studies, my work overlaps with critical human-animal studies as I am interested in the position of nonhuman others within society, exploring how literature can both uphold and subvert anthropocentric readings of these beings. Specifically, my research seeks to examine how humanity has been socially constructed according to dominant Western dualisms and in opposition to the ‘other’, through a literary analysis of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus (1984), Marge Piercy’s Body of Glass (1991), and Michel Faber’s Under the Skin (2000). My thesis centres women, animals, and cyborgs as ‘others’ within society, and I consider the way in which hybridity complicates binary constructions of human and nonhuman animals. Within this, I draw on class politics, posthumanism, and intersectional theory in order to illustrate how the construction of ‘humanity’ has widespread implications for those who fall outside, or between, the binary. Ultimately, I propose that humanity can be constituted as a performance, expanding on Judith Butler’s theory on gender performativity.
Inspired by my own personal transformation to a plant-based diet, I am passionate about communicating the increasing importance and positive externalities of sustainable foods. As a consumer and market researcher, my work focusses on discovering market based strategies to reduce the adverse impacts of our diets and consumption behaviour on the planet and its inhabitants. My current research addresses the consumer behaviour surrounding meat avoidance, reduction and substitution with commercially available alternative products, or ‘meat substitutes’. Specifically, I am exploring consumer attitudes, motivations and deterrents for the consumption of meat substitutes with the intention of determining effective persuasion and promotional techniques to facilitate behavioural change towards meat substitution and reduction. I aim to advance the sustainable food sector by providing research-based insight to position industry players to take advantage of increasing market opportunities in this area. I am currently pursuing my PhD in Marketing at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. I also hold both a bachelor and master’s degree with honours in marketing and consumer behaviour.
I am currently pursuing a PhD in Human-Animal Studies. My research is influenced by my interest in feminism, animal advocacy, and other forms of social justice activism. My research will highlight the experiences of women and non-binary animal advocates in Aotearoa.