My research examines various existential, emotional, and ethical phenomena that emerge within children and young people’s relationships with non-human animals. Following Donna Haraway (2008), I believe that “the relation” is the smallest or most vital unit of analysis. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I employ methods and theoretical frameworks from a range of disciplines including education, psychology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and even animal behavior. I am curious about human children’s relationships with nonhuman animals in a variety of physical places and social spaces (i.e., at home, with families, with friends, in their communities, at school, in nature, in parks or wilderness areas, at the dinner table, in books or movies, and even in their imaginations). I am currently pursuing two different lines of research:
1) My main research focuses on children’s experiences of death, loss, and grief concerning animals and nature. These themes are of vital importance, especially when one considers the sheer number of animals around the world that die for various reasons. Millions of companion animals run away, get lost, die at home, or are euthanized in and out of shelters. Billions of animals die each year within the global agricultural industry. Hunting and fishing are billion dollar industries but also exist in small communities for subsistence and traditions that are important.** Wildlife die each day on roads. Habitat loss and destruction, climate change, and poaching are just some of the contributing factors to our world’s increasing numbers of endangered and extinct species and decreasing biodiversity. Death is also a very normal and natural part of life and is taught as such in many cultures. I am curious about the role that death experiences play in our multispecies communities, in the past, in the present, and as we shape the future.
2) I am also currently engaged in research and theoretical writing around queer theory and environmental education. I see this work as deeply aligned with my other projects, in that I am predominantly interested in how queer theory can raise questions about our human experiences of animality, nature, and pedagogical relationships across species boundaries. I am also specifically interested in how LGBTQ+ youth explore their own relationships with nature and other animals.
** One further note. One question I am often asked about my research is whether I approve or disapprove of different activities, such as animal agriculture, fishing, hunting, pet euthanasia, etc. The best response I can give is that my research is not about me or my beliefs. It is about the many kinds of phenomena and relationships that exist between children and animals. My research assistants and I also engage in strict practices to “set aside” our own biases, beliefs, politics, and morals, to truly understand and describe what children and young people experience in their own lives with animals. Finally, I also am open to a variety of ideas and thoughts about how to best live our lives on this planet, with other creatures and people, and so I always find that I learn a lot personally from working with children and young people! I am happy to answer any other questions or concerns you might have, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.