Thera Naiman is Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins University in the history department and received a grant to conduct archival research on animal rights activists from the Société protectrice des animaux in Paris for her dissertation, “Disordered Taxonomies: Zoos and Difference in Late Nineteenth-Century France.” Her dissertation calls for a rethinking of top-down models of natural history and zoology. She writes:
My research proposes that these classificatory systems were challenged and reimagined by those whom historians have not considered active agents in the process: visitors, zookeepers, activists, and—perhaps most importantly—the displayed animals and people themselves.
Thera’s 2019 grant allowed her to conduct six weeks of archival research in Paris on the nineteenth-century animal advocates from the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA). Using this research, she has since drafted an academic article examining the SPA’s debates over the treatment of animals by racial and religious others, specifically by Muslims in Algeria and Jews in metropolitan France. She hopes to submit this article to an academic journal for publication, thus extending the existing scholarship addressing animal protection, race, and civilization rhetoric within the context of imperialism.
She has enjoyed the opportunity to connect with more scholars and expand her network of people working in the field of animal studies. She has found satisfaction with how her research continues to be present and important in France today, and hopes to be able to provide additional historical context to support the work of animal rights activists and scholars that employ an antiracist approach to animal advocacy. She is also looking forward to teaching a new course in the fall at Johns Hopkins University about animals and humans in historical perspective.