Bjørn Ralf Kristensen

Research, 2024, Grantee Link >

Bjørn Ralf Kristensen is a doctoral candidate in the Environmental Studies Program and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. His research is focused on multispecies studies and animal ethics, with particular attention to ethical implications involving animals in the contexts of urban environments, sanitation, development, and public health.

Bjørn was awarded a grant from CAF for “Thinking with Street Dogs,” a multispecies ethnographic project exploring the lives of free-ranging dogs in Cusco, Peru (see images below for some of his subjects). This project is grounded in the emergent tradition of pragmatist ecofeminism, and in particular the works of American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey and ecofeminist philosopher Val Plumwood, paired with fieldwork informed by the interdisciplinary traditions of multispecies studies and the environmental humanities.

Bjørn considers how dog welfare is often informed primarily from perspectives of the Global North, where dogs live radically different lives than in much of the Global South. Overwhelmingly, such perspectives promote the view that free-ranging dogs (more than 70 percent of dogs globally) are not legitimate occupants of urban environments. Rather, they are deemed strays or problematized as in need of rescue and population control (best cases), or eradication (worst cases). Such approaches are at odds with the everyday views of people in places like Cusco (and much of the Global South) where dogs are often understood in ways that attribute notions of autonomy and agency that diverge greatly from Global North perspectives. Bjørn proposes that the social and physical environment of Cusco makes it possible for dogs to live out their lives in ways that can be interpreted as living critiques of dominant approaches in animal ethics.

Central to Bjørn’s engaged research with this project is philosophical fieldwork through which he strives to think with Cusco’s street dogs themselves, to understand them as participants in moral theorizing; whose lives challenge universalized approaches and misconceptions. A central tension in this work is the question of how street dogs might be accounted for in a way that is more charitable and legitimizing to their forms of life, while also recognizing the undeniable challenges they face.

The CAF grant awarded to Bjørn will be used to fund fieldwork in Cusco, Peru, which will be necessary grounding for the completion of several academic papers.

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