CLAN – Children-Animals Friendships: challenging boundaries between humans and non-humans in contemporary societies

PTDC/SOC 28415/2017

PI: Verónica Policarpo // Co-PI: Ana Nunes de Almeida

 

What is project CLAN about?

  • Funded by the Portuguese Scientific Foundation (PTDC/SOC 28415/2017), this project aims at understanding the relationships between children and companion animals, by analyzing their affective practices, and discusses how these are intertwined with other practices, environments and contexts, such as those involved in taking care of a pet. Children and pets are considered as co-producers of a common world, where the boundaries of what is a child, and an animal, are built, and permanently reconfigured.

The project uses qualitative methods to explore these relationships and their affective dimensions, in the context of the household and parent-child interaction. Children will be given a voice (and heard) and asked to put themselves ‘in the shoes’ of their pets. Pets will be observed, in their relationship with children, and the natural and material world that surround them. The project also engages with relevant stakeholders related to both childhood and animal life: policy makers, teachers, psychologists, pediatricians, social workers, veterinarians and representatives of animal welfare associations.

The project will run for three years, beginning on 1st October 2018, with a team of eight researchers, and an external advisory panel of three international experts.

 

Abstract

How do children and pets build daily relationships that contribute to either challenging or reproducing dominant classificatory categories and established boundaries between human and non-human worlds?

This project aims at exploring this question, drawing on some facts that have stimulated scientific curiosity around the topic: the contrast between normative changes related to animal rights/protection and the massive numbers of errant and institutionalized dogs and cats, due to different forms of abuse and neglect; the dramatic drop of fertility rates, with children becoming rarer in number, along with their growing centrality in the family and parental investment in their education; homes that become 'technological playgrounds' where children learn and play, and a pet becomes an option for partisans of an 'experiential pedagogy', perceived as a way to retrieve a relationship with nature and the 'world we have lost'. Furthermore, since modernity, children and animals share time-lagged but similar processes of recognition as subjects of fundamental rights.

Informed by a 'theory of practice' framework, and drawing on interdisciplinary literature (on childhood, friendship, affect, and human-animal studies), the project aims at studying the relationships between children and pets. It pays special attention to their affective practices, defined as forms of embodied meaning-making. It is suggested that children and pets co-produce the hybrid worlds they are embedded in, through practices that may either reproduce, or confront, the species barrier. It is hypothesized that, when these relationships are built in the way either of kinship, or of friendship, that barrier is challenged.

More specific questions are: what are the dimensions (educational, instrumental, ludic) involved in practices between children and pets? How do these practices impact both on the child and the pet, namely to the development of mutual empathy? How do they contribute to drawing the boundaries of what is an 'animal', a 'pet', a 'child', or a 'friend'? How do they intertwine with parental education and caring practices, towards both the child and the pet, as well as the overall material arrangements of the household?

 

Methodologically, the project follows a qualitative design. The unit of analysis is the relationship between the child and (the) pet(s) (cats/dogs); children will be given a voice (and heard) and their relationship with pets observed in domestic context. The multi-method approach will comprise both visual and verbal data, collected via ethnography and direct observation, visual and participatory methods, and photo-eliciting interviews.

The project develops a sociological perspective that has remained underexplored: the relevance of the child-pet relationship for both sides; and how it is built through affective practices. It is groundbreaking in Portuguese social sciences, and it contributes with an original context specific case study to the international literature.

 

TEAM

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Verónica Policarpo

PI (Principal Investigator)

sociologist and researcher at ICS-ULisboa, in the field of Human-Animal Studies. Since October 2018 she coordinates the project “CLAN - Children-Animals’ Friendships: challenging boundaries between humans and non-humans in contemporary societies" (PTDC/SOC 28415/2017). She is a member of the LIFE Research Group, and the coordinator of "Animal Wonder - Reading Group on Human-Animal Studies @ICS-ULisboa".

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Ana Nunes de Almeida

CO-PI (CO-PRINCIPAL  INVESTIGATOR)

Sociologist and a researcher at the ICS-ULisboa. Her favourite sicentific themes are: children and childhood, family and schooling, children and animals, new ethical dilemmas in the research with children. She is currently the chair of the Scientific Council at ICS-ULisboa and a member of the Directive Commitee of the RN04 Children and Childhood, European Sociological Asssociation).

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Mónica Truniger

INVESTIGATOR ICS ULISBOA

Sociologist t ICS-ULisboa. She has dedicated herself to research, teaching and science communication about social practices around food and meals, namely through research about food poverty, sustainable food consumption, and food habits of families with children. She has several publications on these themes, both by international and national publishers.

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Leonor Bettencourt Rodrigues

POS-DOC RESEARCHER

Post-doc researcher with a PhD in Social, environmental and Community Psychology. Her research topics have been around social policy and intervention with vulnerable populations. She is currently developing a research project (FCT individual scholarship) about the complexity and ambivalence in child protection decision-making.

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Teresa Líbano Monteiro

PhD

Teresa Líbano Monteiro é doutorada em sociologia (ISCTE-IUL) (2007). Lecionou Teorias Sociológicas e Métodos de Investigação na Faculdade de Ciências Humanas da Universidade Católica Portuguesa (1993-2017). Em 2013, esteve no Centre Max Weber (Lyon- France) para desenvolver investigação na àrea dos Human-Animal Studies.

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Marta Rosales

INVESTIGATOR

I am an anthropologist (PhD 2007) and a research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon since 2014. My main fields of research are material culture and consumption, international migrations and media anthropology. Presently, I am PI of TRANSITS – Material Culture, Migration and Everyday Life

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Vasco Ramos

Vasco Ramos (Lisbon, 1976), is a postdoctoral researcher, with a PhD in Sociology from the University of Lisbon. Among other interests, his research has focused on issues such as social inequality, class and mobility, and family sociology. More recently, he has focused on food, food practices and human-animal studies.
Currently, he is a researcher at CLAN, conducting ethnographic work with children and pets, with interest in understanding how specific categorisations of non-human animals relate to food practices and preferences.
Since 2009 he has worked on several projects at ICS-UL, namely on a research project on family trajectories and social networks, coordinated by Karin Wall.
Currently, he is part of the Life research group LIFE – Life Course, Inequality and Solidarities: Practices and Policies. He also collaborates with OFAP - Observatory of Families and Family Policies. As a postdoc researcher, he was part of the Portuguese team working on the ERC funded research project Families and Food in Hard Times. Since August 2017, he is developing a research project (based on an individual post-doctoral fellowship from the FCT) entitled “Living with Uncertainty: Enduring Precariousness over the life course.

Henrique _Tereno

Henrique Tereno

Licenciado em Estudos Europeus pela Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa e Mestre em Antropologia pelo ISCTE/UTAD. É atualmente bolseiro de investigação no projeto CLAN no Instituto de Ciências Sociais. Os temas de pesquisa prediletos enquadram o relacionamento entre humanos e animais não-humanos.

External advisors

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Jérôme Michalon

Research Fellow in Sociology, at The French National Centre for Scientific Research.  I’m currently working at the Triangle laboratory (UMR 5206 – University of Lyon). My research areas are human-animal relationships, science studies, sociology of mobilization, and sociology of health. My work consists in a sociological exploration of social dynamics within the “benevolence towards animals communities”. My PhD dissertation about Animal-Assisted Therapies as a social phenomenon has been published in 2014 (“Panser avec les animaux. Sociologie du soin par le contact animalier”, Presses de Mines, Paris). I try to understand how health care changes the social status of some animals (namely dogs and horses). I am also working on animal rights activism, and especially the links between advocacy and academia.

Harry Eckman​

Harry Eckman

Harry has worked in animal welfare for over 20 years. In that time he has collaborated with hundreds of locally based animal welfare, protection and shelter organisations around the world, providing guidance and support on a wide range of issues and areas including organisational and capacity development, strategic planning, stray dog and cat population management, shelter management, welfare standards, community engagement and incorporating human behaviour change concepts into companion animal management program

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Mara Miele

Professor in Human Geography, Director of Postgraduate Research

School of Geography and Planning