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dc.contributor.advisorHemer, Susan-
dc.contributor.authorCurtis, Sarah Anne-
dc.description.abstractIn a society where sight and human autonomy hold high value, disabilities such as blindness and autism represent a disruption from the norm: a problem that needs resolving. Inevitably service provision becomes a part of the lives of those who experience these culturally defined debilities. The Guide Dogs Association of South Australia and Northern Territory is one such service provider and its policies and practices, staff, clients and dogs are the nucleus for my ethnographic research on the human-animal relationship. This ethnographic research consists of participant observation conducted between December 2009 and March 2011 in the city of Adelaide. I conducted both structured and informal interviews and employed other qualitative research methods (‘puppy-raising’ for example) for reflexive data collection. This thesis seeks to advance the academic understanding of how people think about and make use of assistance dogs; how the relationships between humans and animals is understood; the senses are referred to, made use of, and valued in the context of disability and animal assistance; and finally, how people’s everyday lives are facilitated by these animals. It is a taken-for-granted understanding in both the academic literature and this fieldsite that animals can and do facilitate the lives of humans. As a result, in this setting there are three foci – human, animal, and the coming together of the two – all of which I argue transpires under the authority of the organisation and encapsulated by the concept of need. I therefore ethnographically analyse aspects of the human-animal relationship central to this setting – training, characterising, assessing, matching, bonding, and work – and go on to argue that a triad of inter-dependence is demonstrated through power, choice and emotion and is the driving factor of this cross-species relationship. This setting sees dogs having careers and developing fluctuating bonds with various people. This propels a human-centric aim of providing assistance dogs for people with vision impairments, children and their families that experience autism, or to provide assistance at a companion level as ‘pets as therapy’ dogs. I describe these unique and finite stages of dogs’ careers, highlighting the notion that agency is distributed across the working team. The experiences of human and animal haptic1 senses also inform the relationship in this setting, with orientation and mobility essential to training and other everyday conduct – especially regarding a client’s interactions, their personal potential, and their abilities as individuals in society. I therefore contend that senses are fundamental to the distribution of agency in the working team, as well as a client’s choices, the way they feel about their disability, and the way they conduct themselves. When humans and animals are characterised and assessed, and matched and work with each other, there is an ongoing irresolvability or contradiction that comes to the fore between what are considered stable and what are considered fluid or mutable characteristics of humans and animals. For while individual human and animal behaviours are believed to exhibit the capacity for choice, ability, and consequent action, it is in reality, the staff who interpret and decipher these meaningful and distinguishing behaviours by virtue of explicit judgements, policies, and assessments. Staff attribute agency to the dogs and clients, and yet equally take it away when they do not perform in the manner congruent with ‘good’ service delivery. Ultimately, successful animal assistance is considered achieved when increased mobility, safety, and independence is attained. However, there are two key aspects of human-animal relations that are downplayed by the GD Services department. The first being, that the emotional facilitation experienced by clients and volunteers is disregarded by the staff in favour of the dogs acting as utilitarian tools; ultimately effecting client autonomy. The second is that while the GD Services staff (and organisation as a whole), retain much of the power and agency over each human-animal relationship that occurs here, their power over others is not explicitly taken into account or perceived to any large degree, regardless of its impact.en
dc.subjectHuman-animal relationsen
dc.subjectguide dogsen
dc.titleHuman-Animal Relations. Agency, Inter-dependence, and Emotion between Humans and Assistance Dogsen
dc.contributor.schoolSchool of Social Sciences : Anthropology and Development Studiesen
dc.provenanceThis electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
dc.description.dissertationThesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2017en
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