Deconstructing the beast : contemporary representations and discourses on the nature of animals in urban Britain
This thesis explores contemporary representations and discourses on the nature of animals through the development and investigation of the psychodynamics of dehumanisation. Psychodynamics integrates the discursive structuring of knowledge with the psychoanalytical defence mechanisms of projection and introjection. Hollway's (1989) theory of psychodynamic investment is applied here to account for the reproduction of species-differentiated beliefs and behaviours. This provides the parameters for a model of dehumanisation which is the referent for the empirical exploration. The methodological approach employed centres on triangulation. Semi-structured interviews with vegetarians and non-vegetarians are discourse analysed to reveal patterns of naturalisation in the production of social meanings and the participation in social practices. The analysis reveals the content of the psychodynamic investments in three hegemonic discourses: nonhuman animals as Objects, Referents and Utensils. In order to explore representations of the referent, 'beast', newspaper articles are semiologically content analysed. This analysis identifies aspects of human experience which are projected onto nonhuman animal representations, through anthropomorphism and zoomorphism. To explore one example of these metaphors, the fantasy 'beast', a semiotic analysis of narrative was conducted on Wilderness, the book and derived drama, further articulating the symbolic dimension of irresolute species boundaries in a modem twist on the lycanthropic myth. The model of dehumanisation is developed to interpret the analysis of the texts. Deconstruction of these texts provide evidence for the anthropocentric, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic dialectics of self:other reflected in the violent construction of human versus nonhuman animal identity. The synthesised model of dehumanisation illustrates both the human desire to acknowledge and oppress nonhuman animals and the ubiquitous 'beast within', as part of the psychodynamic construction of subjectivity. In conclusion, the deconstructed 'beast' is revealed as a modern-day ideological chimera which signifies the ambivalence of humans' understanding of themselves as animals.