Thera Naiman 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 CAF 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 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. During the 2019–2020 academic year, Thera was selected as a Fulbright scholar where she “analyzed how scientific taxonomies of species and race were challenged and reimagined by those whom historians have not typically considered active agents in the process.” In Fall 2020, she taught a course at Johns Hopkins entitled “From Darwin to Babar: Animals and Humans in Historical Perspective,” with the support of a Dean’s Teaching Fellowship.
In 2023, Thera received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in the Department of History. She is a member of Utrecht University’s Zoo Studies Group, which discusses texts relevant to transforming human–animal relationships. Currently, she is an Innovation Program Manager at Census Open Innovation, and more information can be found on her website.