Human-Nonhuman Animal Connectedness in Times of Disaster

Author: Dian Fowles

Fowles, Dian, 2018 Human-Nonhuman Animal Connectedness in Times of Disaster, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Complexity defines our relationships with nonhuman animals and we continuously live in a state of dis/connection with them. The disconnection we feel is intimately linked to how we assign worth to them, being both the reason for it and a result of it (once established it becomes self-sustaining). This study explored such feelings of dis/connect as demonstrated by the participants’ words and actions for/on behalf of nonhuman animals during times of natural disaster. The way nonhuman animals are valued has significant bearing on their disaster outcomes and also impacts on the disaster resilience of many humans. A critical hermeneutic phenomenological methodology allowed for a deeper exploration of the participants’ experiences. A Derridean deconstructive technique was applied as a tool for revealing deeper human-centric valuing hidden within the participants’ recountings of their experiences.

A dearth of research on the more abstract facets of human-nonhuman relationships in disaster times led to the conceptualising of this study. Qualitative methods, employing unstructured in-depth interviewing sessions, were conducted with eighteen participants. The resultant three key themes around which the data was finally organised disclosed a) the more practical issues that the participants were faced with, b) evidence of the deeper, biophilic connections the participants demonstrated, and, c) evidence of the senses of socioculturally instilled disconnection demonstrated by the participants. Deeper examination of the practical issues also revealed indications of senses of dis/connection. This study adds to current understandings of human-nonhuman relationships during these times. It also contributes to an awareness of the need to ultimately eliminate current dominant human-centricity – in all aspects of life, but particularly in current models of disaster planning and management.

Keywords: Human-Nonhuman relationships, natural disasters, nonhuman animals, connection, disconnection, biological connection, sociocultural disconnection, human/nature binary, human/nature divide, deconstruction, Derrida, critical hermeneutic phenomenology

Subject: Sociology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Nik Taylor