Takin’ It to the Feet: Nonhuman Nature Research Methods

Margo DeMello · March 31, 2020


Margo DeMello received her doctorate degree in Cultural Anthropology from U.C. Davis in 1995, and currently teaches at Canisius College in the Anthrozoology Master’s program. She served as the Program Director for Human-Animal Studies at Animals & Society Institute for the last decade and is the past President of House Rabbit Society. She also volunteers for Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary. Her books include Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature (with Susan Davis, Lantern 2003), Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection (with Erin Williams, Prometheus 2007), Teaching the Animal: Human-Animal Studies Across the Disciplines (Lantern 2010), Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies (Columbia University Press 2012), Speaking for Animals: Animal Autobiographical Writing (Routledge 2012), Body Studies: An Introduction (Routledge 2014), and Mourning Animals: Rituals and Practices Surrounding Animal Death (Michigan State 2016).

Contact: margo@rabbit.org

Gay Bradshaw holds doctorate degrees in ecology and psychology, and has published, taught, and lectured widely in these fields both in the U.S. and internationally. Her books include the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Elephants on the Edge; What Animals Teach Us About Humanity (Yale 2009), Carnivore Minds: Who These Fearsome Beings Really Are (Yale 2017), and Talking with Bears: Conversations with Charlie Russell (Rocky Mountain Books, 2020). Her diagnosis of Elephant PTSD led to the founding of the field of trans-species psychology. Gay is the founder and director of The Kerulos Center for Nonviolence and The Tortoise and the Hare Sanctuary.

Contact: bradshaw@kerulos.org

Zoom Link

Course Description

Globalized research and education over the past five hundred years have been shaped by the “Colonial Paradigm,” a way of thinking and perceiving which has been driven by the belief that humans are separate from and superior to Nature, and that the knowledge gained by indigenous peoples is merely anecdotal. Now, science’s recognition of Animal sentience and mass extinctions have catalyzed re-framing of the ethics, approach, and purpose of research concerning Nonhuman species. This course expands the scope of the decolonizing movement, exemplified by the field of Indigenous Research Methods (IRM), to include Nonhuman Nature. We explore theoretical, methodological, ethical, and practical dimensions of decolonized research concerning Nature. Overall inquiry encompasses: What does research entail when approached from the perspective of Animal/Nature ways of being, behaving, and knowing? When we understand Animals/Nature as epistemic and moral authorities, what is pertinent research by humans?

Course Objectives

This webinar series is intended for students and professionals seeking to design projects and research from the perspective of Nonhuman Nature which recognizes Nonhuman sentience, ontologies, and epistemes—consciousness and ways of being and knowing. We discuss the importance of avoiding colonial phagocytosis, that is, the appropriation of indigenous understanding and views into intellectually comestible “packets of knowledge.” Participants will learn how to develop a research proposal which meets standard criteria for academic study, grant submission, and publication. At the end of this course, the participating learner should able to:

1) Critically examine dominant, Western research paradigms to uncover biases generated by the misconception that Nonhumans are not sentient;

2) Develop new ways of understanding Nonhuman Nature and our relationships to them in ways that are participatory and collaborative, rather than excluding and objectifying;

3) Decolonize your own research, language, communication, and writing practices to accurately reflect Nature perspectives, sentience and ontological and epistemic authority;

4) Craft a research proposal that decenters white, Western, and objectivist ways of seeing the world and centers the Nonhuman Nature perspective;

5) Relate your research to indigenous, non-Western human perspectives;

5) Increase competence in critical reflection and presentation skills and communication, including self-awareness and ethical inquiry;

6) Improve relevance for policy and practice which supports these communities.

Course Structure

The webinar meets weekly on the online conferencing platform ZOOM for eight weeks (one 3-hour session and seven 2-hour sessions). These sessions will be held on Sunday mornings at 9:30am Pacific Time. Each session begins with a presentation by the instructor-facilitators and/or guest lecturers to discuss a particular concept, question, or example relevant to nonhuman Nature Research. Learners are required to read and prepare to discuss assigned material prior to session. Materials draw from texts, articles, and videos. There are four required texts which the leaner must purchase. All other materials will be supplied by instructors and will be available on the Kerulos Learning Institute (KLI) platform. Following the lecture, there will be Q&A and each learner will discuss how the topic is relevant relative to her/his individual proposed research/grant/ project. The final course project is a written paper and 10-minute presentation which describe your project from the perspective of Nonhuman Nature Research Methods.

Required Texts

Bradshaw, G. A. (2020). Talking with Bears: Conversations with Charlie Russell. Rocky Mountain Books.

Bradshaw, G. A. (2017). Carnivore Minds: Who These Fearsome Animals Really Are. Yale University Press.

Chilisa, B. (2019). Indigenous Research Methodologies. Sage Publications, Incorporated (second edition).

Deloria, V. (2006). The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men. Fulcrum Publishing.

Recommended Text

Recommended Films

ANIMA: Animals. Faith. Compassion (2018) 

Ashes and Snow (2005) 

Dean Spanley (2008) Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu

Milking the Rhino (2009) PBS

A Bird Tail (2018) 

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Course Includes

  • 8 Lessons