Emily Major

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Emily Major is a Ph.D. Candidate in Human-Animal Studies at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. She received a grant for “Framing Possums: Observations of Conservation Education in Aotearoa New Zealand and Potential for Compassionate Conservation.” This project looks at the brushtail possum in Aotearoa New Zealand and how they are framed as a “pest.” Her research consists of observational fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, and textual analysis of mainstream “possum-as-pest” narratives. She writes:

As a feminist CAS scholar, my research seeks to disrupt the objectivity that is so prevalent in Western academia, fusing academic research with compassionate animal activism. One way in which this disruption occur is through engaging with, and challenging, the beliefs of the wider public about possums through establishing an accessible blog.

In 2021, Emily published a second blog post on her Framing Speciesism blog titled “Prisoners of War,” which describes her reaction to a Facebook video of possum torture. She connected this instance of cruelty to a trend of using the  possum-as-“pest” narrative to justify and downplay abuse towards possum.  Her first blog post titled “‘Voracious’ Appetites” explained that the interplay among colonialism, human supremacism, and nativism has shaped the narrative of possums as villains and resulted in the aggressive eradication campaign, Predator Free 2050, in New Zealand. Check out her blog to learn more about how possums have become the villains in New Zealand.

Emily continues to maintain Framing Speciesism. Since 2021, she’s published four articles: “Holding the Proverbial Line,” “‘Blacks Rd Possum:’ Woman Meets Hungry Joey,” “Possum Purge,” and “To Cleanse and Purify.” These articles often take anecdotal stories or local news related to possums in New Zealand to jump-start conversations around their negative perception. Her posts help reframe socially accepted activities such as possum hunting festivals, negative news coverage, and possum taxidermy competitions.