top of page

S6E10: Grad Review with Virginia Thomas and Darren Chang

In this ‘Grad Review’ Claudia talks to Virginia Thomas and Darren Chang, two early career researchers interested in animals and politics. Together they unpack synergies, tensions, and omissions that emerged in the 6th Season of The Animal Turn podcast. They discuss the multiple scales at which politics is practiced and can be considered, the crisis of imagination that potentially exists among the animal advocacy movement as well as some of the conceptual development being done by scholars that can create space for more just, multispecies futures.

Darren Chang and Virginia Thomas

Darren Chang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, and a member of the Sydney Environment Institute, at the University of Sydney. His research interests broadly include interspecies relations under colonialism and global capitalism, practices of solidarity, kinship, and mutual aid across species in challenging oppressive powers, social movement theories, and multispecies justice.Through political (and politicised) ethnography at animal sanctuaries, Darren's PhD research project explores potential alignments and tensions between animal and other social and environmental justice movements. The multispecies dimension of this project also considers the place, positions, and subjectivities of nonhuman animals in relation to anthropogenic social movements.

Virginia Thomas is an environmental social scientist with a PhD in Sociology. She is interested in people’s interactions with their environment and with other animals. Virginia’s work explores the social and ethical questions in human-animal relationships. She is currently a research fellow on the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘From Feed the Birds to Do Not Feed the Animals’ which examines the drivers and consequences of animal feeding. This leads on from her previous research which examined human-animal relations in the media (as part of zoonotic disease framing) and in rewilding projects (in relation to biopolitics and human-animal coexistence). You can connect with Virginia via Twitter (@ArbitrioHumano).


Recorded: 15 December 2023

Imagining Multispecies Worlds.jpg
Designs for the Pluriverse.jpg


In this Animal Highlight, fellow Virginia Thomas discusses some of the controversies surrounding Heck Cattle and their breeding. This includes how they were historically bred by members of the German National Socialist party and how they are currently being positioned within rewilding campaigns.

Animal Highlight: Heck Cattle

"To an extent, because prevailing knowledge systems make animals appear as raw materials and consumption commodities, this produces an epistemic effect which hides their active role as labourers: ‘we’ perceive that production processes act upon animals in order to produce value, rather than the reverse: that animals act within production processes in order for value to be produced. At base this attitude, which assumes their passivity, might be traced to a particular form of anthropocentrism which haunts how many of us, including animal advocates, look at animals and perceive them and their power…It is precisely this hierarchical anthropocentrism that haunts conceptions of animals in production, which results in framing these beings purely as raw materials, rather than as agents within production which animate productive processes through their creative labour. Certainly, managers of agribusiness imagine that animals are merely resources that are worked on in order to become ‘products’. But it is disarming to recognise that many animal advocates implicitly imagine animals in this way too: as simply beings who are forced to become raw materials in order to produce food, rather than active subjects who have created, through their labour (forced or otherwise) the world that we see." - Dinesh Wadiwel, Animals and Capital (2023), p. 12.

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

Thank you to Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics (A.P.P.L.E) for sponsoring this podcast; Christiaan Mentz for hi editing work, Virginia Thomas for the Animal Highlight, Gordon Clarke for the bed music, Jeremy John (Website) for the logo. This podcast is hosted and produced by Claudia Hirtenfelder. 

bottom of page