Mitchell Goldsmith


Thesis: The Unfinished Business of Anna Kingsford: Science, Enchantment, and Experiments on Animals

Abstract: As the title suggests, this project engages with Dr. Anna Kingsford, a prominent British 19th-century medical doctor, occultist, and antivivisectionist. My project takes seriously Kingsford’s claim that vivisection is a type of malevolent sorcery and science a type of occult or spiritual undertaking. I argue that this perspective can be helpful for contemporary antivivisectionists trying to both understand the practice and overturn it. One reason why this understanding is worthwhile is how it aligns with emerging themes in the academic literature of posthumanism, new materialism, science and technology studies, and ecophilosophy, where many theorists are interested in opposing anthropocentrism and reappraising previously discarded philosophies and practices such as animism, magic, shamanism, and vitalism. In their reappraisal of these philosophies, many contemporary theorists argue that they hold the potential to imagine and enact more meaningful and ethical relationships with the more-than-human world. Importantly, these philosophies also speak to our current anthropocenic position where big questions, about who we are and what our future entails, are taking center stage.

To that end, my dissertation involves a discussion of the 19thcentury British and European antivivisection movement, the fin de siècle occult revival, and Kingsford’s role in each, often working to bring these worlds together. I then provide a theoretical discussion of Kingsford’s contemporary resonances with posthumanism, new materialism, and other emerging disciplines and a discussion of three case studies of ongoing experimental paradigms (i.e., Maternal deprivation, learned helplessness, and the organizational-activational hypothesis of homosexuality) which lend themselves to a Kingsford inspired analysis. Finally, I chart what I’m calling an “enchanted animal ethic” involving an occult reading of experiments on animals. I hope that the project and an enchanted understanding of animal ethics will be of use to both scholars and activists looking to end experiments on animals and instead further non-animal research methods in-line with a one health model.

Keywords: Anna Kingsford; care ethics; critical animal studies; enchantment; experiments on animals; posthumanism

Supervisor: Dr. Stefan Dolgert

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