Todays featured member profile comes from the wonderful Justine Groizard, take it away Justine!
Member: Justine Groizard
My research focuses on animal-human relationships, or, more specifically, dog-human relationships, as they play out within the context of greyhound racing, rescue and retirement in rural New South Wales, Australia. Through observation and engagement with the dogs and a perspective that incorporates the animals as participants in the research, my project will be complemented by the insights of the humans who play an important role within these greyhounds’ lives. Through ethnography I explore the intersubjectivities between greyhound and human, looking at how one party contributes to the construction of the identity of the other. As these greyhounds transition between ways of being, I examine the surrounding transformations of humans, spaces and objects as they are re-imagined and constructed within different times and spaces. Through my work I hope to foster a deeper understanding of how relationships work within the greyhound racing sphere, and, subsequently, work with the community to better practices and policies relating to the greyhounds themselves.
What drew you to this topic?
My family has been involved in greyhound racing for generations. As a child, I was drawn to the sport through a desire to spend more time with the dogs. This led me to wanting to pursue a career in something relating to animals. As I became older I began to suffer feelings of hurt, betrayal and disenfranchised grief each time an unsuccessful greyhound was taken away to be ‘put down’. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I actually disliked the sport, it was the dogs themselves that had drawn me to the community. After several years of imagining myself as distinctly anti-racing I enrolled to write an Honours thesis, choosing to write about something that had always bothered me, that is, the fact that those who race greyhounds, and therefore, often have greyhounds killed at the end of their racing careers, imagined themselves as being ‘dog lovers’. After the completion of my Honours and a year of independent writing I believe that there is still so much more to learn about greyhound racing, and so many more ways we can improve the lives of the dogs.
What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?
As I am now only just beginning my ‘official’ RhD journey, I cannot speak to the highlights of that particular journey as such, however, one of the ultimate highlights during my year of preparing for RhD has been watching processes of transformation in the way that greyhound racing people relate to the dogs after talking about my work or reading my thesis. My method for animal-orientated change has always relied on the provision of information and learning, rather than attempting to guilt or create tension to cause a rethinking of practice. Several of my participants from the Honours thesis have already jumped on board to take part in the PhD research, allowing me to follow processes of their dogs moving from racing to retirement. The best part, for me, has been watching the cultural norm of having dogs ‘put down’ at the end of their career shift to having them adopted out. Obviously, with the high number of homeless dogs we already face in the state, this is not a permanent solution, but for someone who has by far seen enough greyhounds lose their lives at the end of their time racing, this is a nice reprieve, that is, until we can create an even better, more far-reaching method of tackling this huge issue.
What do you wish you had known before you started?
As my ‘official’ start date is actually in April this year (2018), this is an interesting question. I am sure I will look back on this time wishing there were other things I had done, but, for the time being all I can say that is thanks to an amazing supervisor I feel I am in a good place. If I could go back a year to when I first missed out on a scholarship to do this research, meaning that I was unable to start when I wanted, I would have told myself that my supervisor was right in that a year of independent study would actually be a blessing in disguise. Thanks to the time I have had in between Honours and PhD, I have presented at several conferences, met some amazing people and gained some invaluable contacts, gained experience writing journal articles (hoping to have some published by the end of this year), spent some time working in other academic fields, and, most importantly, had the time to read, read, and read some more. So, I think that now, if in fact I had been able to start a year ago like I had initially wanted, I would tell myself and spend a year doing what I have done, and that I am feeling even more grateful and ready to start this PhD as a result!
What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?
To others now beginning their PhD, or considering this avenue, I would suggest being sure of your passion for your topic and your trust in your supervisors. Although, as stated above, my official start date is still approaching (not long now!) 2017 was one of the most interesting, best years of my life. Despite spending all 12 months striving for a scholarship, despite feeling disheartened whenever I did not secure one, I always had my supervisor’s at my side, and so I did not feel alone – and giving up was not even an option! My passion for my work drove me on to speak in front of others, to travel alone, to approach people I had admired from the other side of Google Scholar for years, all things I do not think the ‘me’ before being inspired by this project would have been able to do. If you have those staples, I believe I, and anyone else, can do anything.
What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?
For the most part, I enjoy spending time with my family. Comprised of my partner, Justyn, a Chihuahua named Bruce, a Greyhound named Dove and a Scaly Breasted Lorikeet named Bobby, the minute I leave my house all I can think about is getting back to my wacky little household and spending time with them. Our main activity is snuggling, I love to put a movie on and have everyone cuddled up together, especially on rainy days.
Thanks Justine! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org