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Research Articles
Published: 2020-02-06

Animal Agency in Community: A Political Multispecies Ethnography of VINE Sanctuary

Harvard Law School
Queen's University

Sue Donaldson


Queen's University
farmed animals sancutary intentional community multispecies ethnography agency social roles social norms


Anthropocentric bias and ignorance limit our ability to conceive just ways of living with nonhuman animals, especially farmed animals. We need to learn from animals themselves, in environments where animals retain sufficient agency in their relations with us to allow for a rich and meaningful study of interspecies ethics and the possibilities of just multispecies societies. Using multispecies ethnography and feminist accounts of the self as a springboard, we investigate animal agency in a sanctuary for formerly farmed animals, considering how a careful exploration of dimensions of agency in this setting might inform ideas of interspecies ethics and politics. This innovative extension of multispecies ethnography explores individual and collective dimensions of animals' agency through space and place, through practice and routine, and through social roles and norms, to learn about whether/how animals might want to live with us, and how we can recognize and support their agency through our relationships.


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