Members of the group are involved in various multi-disciplinary projects with researchers from around the world. Between us we have a broad set of interests which can loosely be categorised as below. Feel free to contact us for more information about any of these projects. 

Ongoing Projects

The Vegan Wellbeing Project

This is a new project that will be launched in 2020 so check back for information.

Making Animals Killable: “Pest” species in Australian media

Zoei Sutton and Nik Taylor are currently working on a project analysing the ways in which ‘pest’ species are constructed in the Australian media. They presented initial data from this work at the Australasian Animal Studies Association conference, co-hosted by the New Zealand Centre for Human Animal Studies in Christchurch in 2019. Their presentation was called, ‘Make nature great again’: static/dynamic nature and the ‘problem’ of introduced species.’ They are currently in the process of writing this talk and their results up and the first paper will appear in Parallax in the near future. We will update you as soon as we can.

Animals and Social Work

Heather Fraser and Nik Taylor are currently working on a number of writing projects regarding animals and social work. The first publication from this research is a chapter called ‘Critical (Animal) Social Work: Insights from Ecofeminist & Critical Animal Studies in the Context of Neoliberalism’ published in The Routledge Handbook of Critical Pedagogies for Social Work. The abstract is below:

Eco-feminism and critical animal studies have much to offer social workers interested in transformative social change inclusive of non-human animals, built and natural environments. Inequality on the basis of species and gender — particularly as they intersect with neoliberal rhetoric— are major points of our discussion. The chapter is organised into five overlapping sections: (1) Ecofeminism; (2) Critical Animal Studies; (3) Ecological/Green Social Work; (4) Critical (Animal) Social Work in the context of Neoliberalism; and (5) Transformative Education and the Joy of Animal Connections. We draw ideas most from Val Plumwood and Vandana Shiva (representing ecofeminism), Carol J. Adams (vegan ecofeminism), Steve Best (Critical Animal Studies), Fred Besthorn (Ecological Social Work) and Lena Dominelli (Green Social Work). Our primary focus is on how the central ideas from ecofeminism and CAS can inform non-anthropocentric social work, that is, social work that does not assume human superiority or governance over other animals, nature and the environment.

Completed Projects: Books

  • Neoliberalization, Universities and the Public Intellectual: Species, Gender and Class and the Production of Knowledge.  Forthcoming, 2016, Palgrave Critical University Studies Series,  Heather Fraser and Nik Taylor.  NOW PUBLISHED.
    • Overview:
    • This book employs an an intersectional feminist approach to highlight how research and teaching agendas are being skewed by commercialized, corporatized and commodified values and assumptions implicit in the neoliberalization of the academy. The authors combine 50 years of academic experience and focus on species, gender and class as they document the hazardous consequences of seeing people as instruments and knowledge as a form of capital. Personal-political examples are provided to illustrate some of the challenges but also opportunities facing activist scholars trying to resist neoliberalism. Heartfelt, frank, and unashamedly emotional, the book is a rallying cry for academics to defend their role as public intellectuals, to work together with communities, including those most negatively affected by neoliberalism and the corportatization of knowledge.

  • Multi-Species Ethnography: Power, Politics and Philosophy after Humanism. Forthcoming Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.  Lindsay Hamilton and Nik Taylor. NOW PUBLISHED
    • Overview:
    • The idea for this book arose some years ago after we had completed our first joint monograph together, Animals at Work (Hamilton & Taylor, 2013). In it, we presented a series of ethnographic vignettes of people working with animals in some capacity or other, from those in caring occupations such as sanctuary volunteers to those at the opposite end of the spectrum working in abattoirs.  We spent many hours, days and, in fact, years interviewing people in, and observing, places where animals and humans worked together in some fashion. This took us to some interesting and unusual settings: veterinary surgeries, animal shelters, meat packing plants and farms and we noticed that work with animals took very different forms, from the close-up intimacy of the rescue shelter to the distant, strictly zoned and highly mechanised factory floor of the abattoir.  While doing this field work into human-animal relations that interrogated meanings of humanity and animality, analysed modes of identity construction for both human and animal groups, and assessed attitudes towards other species we realised that this kind of ethnographic work involves an acknowledgement that we, as humans, are the ones doing the research and the writing.  Ultimately, for us, this begged the question where are the animals themselves in this research?  As we began to think about this together, and developed our thinking on methods in other projects, we became convinced that the reality is that they tend to be written out of the picture by humans, particularly if one uses traditional, human-centred methods to try and understand human-animal relations.  And we found this to be problematic on many levels.  So problematic, in fact, that we decided to think through it in our next book, which focusses on how we might adapt, renew, and conceive of methods that allow us to research multi species settings in a more inclusive way.

  • Rescuing Me, Rescuing You: Companion Animals and Domestic Violence, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. Nik Taylor and Heather Fraser. NOW PUBLISHED

    • Overview
      Rescuing me, rescuing you speaks to the mutual, loving connections that can be formed across species, and in households where there is domestic violence. It also speaks to the potentially soothing, healing and recovery oriented aspects of human-companion animal relationships before, during and after the violence. Viewing domestic violence through the imaginary eyes of companion animals offers the opportunity to understand this widespread and potentially fatal social problem in new and engaging ways. While we do not suggest that we can truly speak for or adequately represent the interests of all companion animals in violent domestic situations, we can place them and their interests under the spotlight of human inquiry. This is our intention: to centre the rights and interests of companion animals at risk of, experiencing and/or trying to recover from domestic violence. Judging by the interest in social media and scholarly literature on human-animal relations, we think we are not alone in this interest.The appeal of animal related literature can be seen in the exponential growth of the interdisciplinary field of human-animal studies. Within this field there is a consistent focus on human and animal directed violence research. Research in this area has consistently shown the links between domestic violence, child abuse and companion animal abuse. What has been left under-investigated, reported and theorised are the positive relationships many women and children, in violent situations, share with their companion animals. While previous focus has been, quite rightly, on how to help human and animal survivors of domestic violence, what has not been carefully examined are the deep, caring relationships that can exist between human and animals, particularly those trying to survive domestic violence.

      It is this niche that the current book fills by weaving stories of human and companion animal ‘rescue’ and redemption through a work that closely considers the dynamics of human-animal abuse links within domestic violence. Drawing on a range of data from numerous projects the authors have conducted with women, about their companion animals and about links between domestic violence and animal abuse, this book highlights the deep, personal connections between women and their animals. In these regards our proposed book is innovative and different.

      Our book presents an in-depth consideration of the power, politics and philosophy inherent to multi-species relationships and violence. It does so through paying close attention to the stories and images of those affected by such violence. As a result the book will be accessible, compelling, and of interest to a broad market including academics in various disciplines, and those interested in domestic violence service provision, as well as members of the animal-loving general public.

Research Projects:

The above book came out of the following research project:

  • Loving Me, Loving You: Women and children illustrate what it means to survive domestic/family violence with their animal companionsThis project reflects an alliance between Flinders University researchers (Heather and Nik), the Northern Domestic Violence Service and Relationships Australia, South Australia (North) and uses photography, art and interviews to explore how women and children illustrate what it means to them to survive domestic/family violence with their companion animals.

Attitudes to Animals

We do a broad range of research that seeks to capture attitudes towards animals with a view to understanding how we might improve the ways in which animals are treated in society. Research projects in this area include:

  • From Gate To Plate: Perspectives On Contemporary Food Production And Animal Welfare.

This project aims to map the attitudes, and opinions, of Australian and
New Zealand farmers and consumers to animal welfare and food production systems.

Research team: Dr Nik Taylor and Dr Tania Signal, CQUniversity.

  • In Good Company: Investigating the Gendered Experiences Of Companion Animals.

Given that animals are often considered kin, or intimate family
members and that women and men experience intimacy differently, this project aims to
assess if they experience themselves differently through the relationships they have
with animals.

Research team: Dr Heather Fraser and Dr Nik Taylor.

  • You Are What You Eat: Investigation Of Links Between Eating Practices And Philosophical Outlook.

This project assesses whether attitudes to animals impacts on
dietary choices.

Research team: Dr Nik Taylor, Dr Tania Signal and Dr. Beth Daly.

 Animal Assisted Therapies and Assistance Animals

One of the key issues to emerge from human/animal abuse research is the potential animals have to help humans overcome trauma associated with abuse. Research we do in this area focusses not only on the help humans might receive from animals in therapeutic settings but also whether, and how, this might also help animals. Our projects here include:

  • Whispering To Horses: Equine Facilitated Therapy As Treatment For Children And Adolescents Who Have Been Sexually Abused.

This project analyses the efficacy of an equine assisted
intervention offered as adjunct therapy to young people who have experienced sexual abuse.

Research team: Dr Nik Taylor and Dr Tania Signal, CQUniversity.

  • Barking Up The Right Tree: Canine Facilitated Therapy As Treatment For Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused.

This project analyses the efficacy of an adjunct canine assisted
therapy for young people who have experienced abuse.

Research team: Dr Nik Taylor and Dr Tania Signal, CQUniversity.

 The Role(s) of Animals in Society

Here we research the various ways in which animals are brought into human worlds and experiences. research in this area is broad ranging and includes:

  • Animals At Work: Identity, Politics And Culture Working With Animals.

This area of study represents ongoing ethnographic work
into the various areas where humans and animals meet at work. this includes, but is not
limited to, animal shelters, veterinary practices and slaughterhouses.

Research Team: Dr Nik Taylor and Dr Lindsay Hamilton, Keele University, UK.

 Teaching Animal Studies

  • Negotiating Controversial Issues in Teaching Human-Animal Studies

This project aims to value the facilitation of controversial dialogue in the academy about important social, political and environmental issues, as an expression of participatory democracy; to promote an interest in and valuing of good or preferred teaching practices, especially those used to stimulate rich and robust classroom discussions; and to learn more about how Human Animal Studies (HAS) educators approach this intellectual but also emotional work.

Research team: Dr Nik Taylor and Dr Heather Fraser

Student projects

  • Giving them Away: The Role of Animal Shelters in promoting Companion Animal Disposability

This Honours project assessed the role that animal shelters may play in promoting idealised notions of animals and how this might play into cycles of commodification and disposability.

Researcher: Zoei Sutton

  • Can My Pet Come In Too? An Investigation Into The Experiences Of Australian Pet Owners In Times Of Evacuation During Natural Disasters.
This is a PhD project assessing how Australian companion animal owners and their animals, forced to
evacuate their homes due to natural disasters, cope.
Researcher: Dian Fowles

Research by Our Affiliates

  • Victims of Domestic Violence, Their Pets, and Their Vets
This project investigates the frequency of abuse of pets in homes affected by family violence in NSW. It will also explore how frequently physically abused animals are presented to veterinary clinics, and the relationship between victims of domestic violence and veterinarians.
Research team: Dr Lydia Tong, A/Professor Peter Thomson and Lesca Sofyan, (Honours student), University of Sydney.

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