Iván Sandoval-Cervantes is a cultural anthropologist from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and is currently a professor at the University of Nevada. He received a grant for “Redefining Dog Breeds in Mexico City: Race, Nationalism, and Compassion.” This project examined the relationship between dog-breed and dog adoption in Mexico City. Rescue dog organizations are redefining dog-breeds using racial terminology, such as mestizo (mixed), which is changing how people think of dog-breeds and racial terminology. Iván writes:
There is an increasing interest from critical animal studies to look at the relationship between racial categories and non-human animals. Race and species are interrelated concepts but their relationship is not often analyzed. I believe that a project like this will allow for a deeper analysis of how race and species are discussed in the day-to-day lives of people interested in giving dogs a better life while remaining aware of the ways in which people distinguish between different dog breeds and different racial categories.
In his literature review and research on social media, Iván found that shelters often used the label mestizo to attract people interested in adopting rescues, by linking the terminology with compassion and empathy. He writes, “It employs ideas built on the concept of raza cosmica or cosmic race, used by Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos.” Raza cosmica is all about the importance of mixing races, so it makes sense that mixed would be viewed as superior, even when it comes to dogs, as Iván observed. In Spring 2022, Iván took up a position as a visiting research fellow at the Animal Law Policy Program at Harvard Law School, where he is currently researching “Animal Bodies, Human Voices: Violence and the Animal Rights Movement in Mexico,” which seeks to understand how animal rights/well-being activists operate in the current context of violence within Mexico. In addition to his research, Iván has collaborated with the Mexican Ministry of Culture on a theatre presentation and published a short piece titled “The Politics of Saving Dogs in Mexico” on the Bulletin of the General Anthropology Division. He’s also started work on a conference paper titled “Mexican Dog Breeds as Racial Storytelling” that he hopes to present sometime this year. Find out more about his work on his website here.