A Sociology for other animals.
Nik Taylor, Flinders University.
In this piece I wrestle with the question of what a sociology of other animals is for. For me, this is tied to a bigger question of what kind of research we do – and how we do it – in the neoliberal university. In my view, we need to develop some clarity (although not uniformity) in purpose about why we, as sociologists, study human relations with other animals. While there are some excellent tools available in sociological thought to study the various ways humans interact with other species, and the institutions within which this interaction occurs, my view is that if our aims are not in some way emancipatory for the animals involved, then we should rethink our focus and avoid sociological questions about animals altogether. To do otherwise, is to collude with master narratives that position animals as either irrelevant or as existing primarily, if not exclusively, for human benefit. I say this because approaches claiming to be apolitical and that do not seek, in some way, to better the lives of other species, ultimately reconstitute animals as objects, in this instance, objects to be studied. Just as ethical researchers have a duty to dignify their human participants and not treat them as exploitable commodities, the same needs to apply to sociologists who work with/for (other) animals.
Nik Taylor is a sociologist who has been researching human-animal relations for over 15 years, after spending years running an animal shelter. Nik has published widely on the human-animal bond; treatment of animals and animal welfare; links between human aggression and animal cruelty including those between domestic violence, animal abuse and child abuse; slaughterhouses; meat-eating; critical animal studies; neoliberalisation and the marginalization of critically informed knowledge production, and, animal shelter work. Her most recent books include Ethnography after Humanism: Power, Politics and Method in Multi-species Research (with Lindsay Hamilton, Palgrave, 2017); Neoliberalization, Universities and the Public Intellectual: Species, Gender and Class in the Production of Knowledge (with Heather Fraser, Palgrave, 2016), and The Rise of Critical Animal Studies (ed., with Richard Twine, Routledge, 2014).
You can find out more about Nik’s work at the Animals in Society Working Group website and blog.