Jim Kushiner, whose job responsibilities require him to deal with all us birds at Touchstone, clearly keeps himself current on the literature of avian psychology. Yesterday he sent around this abstract that he obviously couldn’t resist sharing:

Roosters, hawks and dawgs: Toward an inclusive, embodied eco/feminist psychology
Social Sciences, MCTC, 1501 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403 USA. 


The gendered exploitation of roosters used in cockfighting is a case example of the social construction of gender via animals — a psychosocial process that injures both people and animals. Similar processes of social construction by way of animals occur in relation to race and sexual orientation, with similarly mutually hurtful results. The rehabilitation of roosters used in cockfighting illustrates the utility of an expanded and amended conception of Herman’s principles of trauma recovery enacted within the emerging insights of trans-species psychology. Those insights lead us toward a truly inclusive eco/feminist psychology centered on acceptance of situated human animality and an understanding of traumatic alienation as a factor in both personal and communal problems in living, including climate change. This perspective shifts the ground for clinical practice, mandating explicit attention not only to interpersonal and intrapsychic cleavages but also to schisms between self and nature, other animals, and one’s own animality.


Jim’s reference to this fascinating and doubtless important piece of work brought back tender memories. When my nephews were little boys, their folks lived on a small farm where the family kept chickens, all of whom the kids named and made pets of.  When the hens quit laying they were kept in comfort until they died of old age.  My wife’s brother complained that he was running a retirement home for chickens, but was outvoted in the matter of their final disposition by his wife and kids.

Every now and then one of these geriatric fowl started to look or act so sick that the hatchet was called for as a corporal work of mercy.  My sister in law, who I think regarded me as something of a brute, asked me if I would psychosocially process them with hurtful results when the family was out of town. Accordingly, I went over to the farm and did massive rehabilitation of the appointed chicken, traumatically alienating it from its head by means of an intrapersonal cleavage, creating a schism between self and nature which I was told made for a serious climate change when the boys got home and old Bedelia was nowhere to be found.  All this was done with full respect for my own animality and the chicken’s, but a good deal of rather unpleasant trans-species psychological interchange.  Burying dead chickens out behind the barn, though, helped me appreciate the kind of research that starts with a bloody mess then covers it with a heavy layer of well-composted manure.