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    Finding Sanctuary: The Occupational Choice of Animal Shelter Work

    O'Connor, Anne (2016) Finding Sanctuary: The Occupational Choice of Animal Shelter Work. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This qualitative study examines the reasons why animal shelter workers choose this occupation, and why they remain, despite the sorrows and travails inherent in this work. This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge in three domains. While the Human-Animal Studies (HAS) literature explains shelter entry as counter-hegemonic and based on loving animals, my data provides evidence that these antecedents to occupational choice are insufficient. Instead, I find that my respondents’ occupational choice is processual; multiple pathways, false starts, and changes in the life course combine to precede entry. Rich insights into the role of process in occupational choice exist in the gendering literature. However, although it is a gendered occupation, shelter work does not appear to be simply a culturally, gender-based choice. I have found evidence of similar processes leading to this choice amongst both male and female respondents, although the few males in my sample (which is reflective of shelter work more broadly) suggests that further research on this point would be valuable. Second, the HAS literature on staying in shelter work focuses on emotion management strategies. While coping strategies are indubitably necessary in order to persist, to this insight I add a moral economy lens and the notion of sanctuary to explain why my respondents stay in this occupation. My respondents feel their occupation is part of a project of wider significance, and they are supported by some members of the public in this belief, by the ‘moral economy of the crowd’. My respondents have found an alternative experience of the economy, one which is not isolated from, but embedded in their values and moral rationalities. Shelter work also offers sanctuary from the market economy and in animal care. Third, I make an empirical contribution by producing unique data on shelter work in the Republic of Ireland, based on two years of ethnographic observations in seven shelters and one veterinary surgery, 24 semi-structured interviews, and an analysis of shelter social media. This study advances sociological theory in the area of occupational choice and promotes a re-visioning of the meaning and purposes of work under conditions of 21st century capitalism. The findings in these pages also bring us a small step closer to understanding our complex, messy, and contradictory relationships with other animals

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Finding Sanctuary; Occupational Choice; Animal Shelter Work;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology
    Item ID: 8780
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2017 10:20
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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