Working Papers

The following papers are in-process:

Authors: M.J. Barrett, Caitlin Wall, Carolyn Hoessler, Kayla Seel & Jessica Jackson.

Using the analytic methods of constructivist grounded theory, we examine the journeys of 21 professional animal communicators as represented in their published books. We ask: What can we learn from studying these individuals’ journeys that might support post-anthropocentric ways of knowing and being? Findings include a conceptual model representing pathways, levers and personal resources that enable the dismantling of human exceptionalism and support post-anthropocentric ways of knowing and being.

Authors: M.J. Barrett, Carolyn Hoessler, Laura Zmud, Avantika Mathur-Balendra, Zahra Ghoreishi & Sydney Kuppenbender

The scope, and methods, and research on animal communication has evolved from training animals to speak human languages, to increasing recognition of greater animal consciousness, cognitive, and communicative abilities than ever-before acknowledged. At this moment expansion and complexity of animal-human interspecies communication practice has exceeded peer-review research on the topic, and Indigenous knowledge scholars are highlighting the numerous ways in which past scientific endeavours have been constrained by particular worldviews. To better understand the growing “outer edges” of animal communication, we explore the practice of intuitive interspecies communication by systematically reviewing websites (n=400) and published books (n= over 150) of professional animal communication practitioners: individuals who use a complex set of intuitive skills to communicate with non-human animals, and who often teach others to develop their own skills. Our findings reveal a pervasive, broad base of educated practitioners with established practices, publications and ethical codes that illustrate their processes for communicating with wild and domestic animals.  This expansion of animal communication practice aligns with fundamental shifts in premised assumptions and understandings of interspecies communication.

Authors: Sydney Kuppenbender & M.J. Barrett

Indigenous leaders and allies are demanding diversification of voices in natural resource management (NRM) – including the human and more-than-human. While knowledge co-production is a valid and successful methodology, a fully inclusive multispecies approach is fraught with challenges, such as Western science’s tendency to place humans as superior in relation to the natural world and ignore Indigenous concepts such as relationality and animal agency. These tendencies mean that the voices of animals are seldom sought, or even considered, in conventional NRM practices. One potential response lies in attending to cross-cultural engagements in Intuitive Interspecies Communication (IIC), wherein one’s intuitive capacities enable two-way communication between humans and more-than-humans, independent of physical proximity. This methodology has the capacity to dismantle the human-nature hierarchy, reignite traditional practices of IIC, include animal voices in NRM practices, and create space for deeper relationships with the land based on mutual understanding.

Authors: M.J. Barrett & Sydney Kuppenbender, with Darlene Chalmers, Chris Hyrknow, Colleen Dell and Marie Lovrod.

Dowling et al. state that “although the more-than-human ‘turn’ is being thoroughly debated and engaged with in theory, the implications of this have not carried through to the same extent in terms of praxis” and “practical action which contributes to a reconfiguring of power relationships” has not followed (Dowling et al., 2016, pp. 1, 6). In this paper, we dive deeply into the examination of ethical codes of practice from professional animal communicators – a growing body of practitioners who, using a wide range of intuitive methods, experience two-way communicative exchanges with non-human animals.  Growing in use across many geographical locations, IIC is applied not only to support and problem solve issues in domestic animal contexts, but it is also used in contemporary wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, and in some instances, in support of veterinary care. To further understand this practice and its practitioners’ ethical intent, we analyze the codes of ethics of contemporary professional animal communicators. Themes such as consent, confidentiality, level of skill and professionalism as well as practices such as self-awareness and good intent are examined. Using the codes of ethics as a starting point, we examine the nature of the practice of IIC, its relationship to anthropomorphism and development of applied methods that enable us to understand the subjective experiences of non-human animals.

Dowling, R., Lloyd, K., & Suchet-Pearson, S. (2016). Qualitative methods II: ’More-than-human methodologies and/in praxis. Progress in Human Geography, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132516664439

Authors: Viktoria Hinz & M.J. Barrett.

This doctoral study examines what professional animal communicators (ACs) do and experience when they engage in remote, intuitive communications, where communicator and animal are separated, often by large distances (different city, country). Research methods combine a multi-stage data collection and analysis process, that is firmly guided by descriptive phenomenology, with self-immersion in the phenomenon. 

The result of this qualitative approach will be a phenomenological description that unpacks the organically nested structure of processes and elements that appear across cases in ACs’ ways of engaging in and experiencing of IIC. This includes, amongst other elements, general communication steps, ways of experiencing intuitive messages from animals, ways of experiencing the animal’s presence even though it is physically absent, the process of making sense of experiential communication content as well as the expression and reporting of intuitive communication experiences in human language. Furthermore, this study also illustrates and makes tangible the diverse possibilities and individual variety of experiencing and engaging in IIC that shapes and exists within the above general structure elements.

Results will provide so-far missing common descriptive ground for understanding IIC and crucial base-line knowledge for shaping future research into the implications and applications of IIC in various fields, such as multispecies research methods, land management, and animal-assisted therapy.  

Author: Barrett, M.J. (May 2021).

Engaging nature as sentient and communicative remains a primary area of misunderstanding between Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians. Although each Indigenous group has unique practices, protocols, languages and beliefs, Indigenous knowledges encompass holistic interconnected worlds where animals, plants, soil, clouds, and other elements are animated with spirit and have the ability to act and communicate. Yet for most individuals educated outside an Indigenous cultural frame, the communicative ability and agency of non-human remains difficult to recognize beyond treating that prospect as cultural construction, myth or metaphor. This, however, is gradually changing. Exploring the significance of often marginalized ways of knowing in relation with the more-than-human, I share key findings from a multi-staged, collaborative cross-cultural study in intuitive interspecies communication (IIC). I speak directly to: (1) methodological engagements with animals, ancestors and First Nations Elders as central to the research process; and (2) in-process understandings of resonances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to intuitive forms of interspecies communication (human-animal communication in particular). I close by outlining how these findings point to IIC as a cross-cultural, rather than specifically Indigenous phenomena with potential to inform collaborations with Indigenous peoples and contribute to a shared ethical space for interspecies engagements.