Narratives of Identity Research

#1
Hello all, I am creating this post so that I may introduce myself, the research, and to invite any and all to reach out so that we may have a further conversation.

My name is Lauren Ripley and I am currently assisting Dr. Clive Baldwin on a qualitative research project out of St. Thomas University. Dr. Baldwin is a Canadian Research Chair in Narrative Studies at St Thomas University, in Fredericton, NB, Canada. Dr. Baldwin is currently working on a project regarding the narratives of identity among diverse populations, more specifically Otherkin, Therians, but also Furries, Bronies, and others. The purpose of the research is to raise awareness and understanding of people who identify as such, and thus further our understanding of our increasingly diverse society. This research has been approved by the Research Ethics Board at St. Thomas University.

To date we have conducted interviews with many individuals from the Otherkin and Therian community, from varying kin/theriotypes. We have had great success with these interviews, and most have had a second interview. Dr. Baldwin and I are dedicated to representing the community as precisely as possible, therefore we are not only interested in learning about you, but we are also interested in having you teaching us more about the community, it's history, etc.

Presently we are in the process of recruiting new members to have interviews with, therefore if you or someone you know may be interested in having a conversation, or if you are simply curious for more information, I strongly urge you to reach out to Dr. Baldwin (baldwin@stu.ca) or myself (hlhnd@stu.ca) via email. Alternatively, we have created several Facebook groups for members interested in learning more, or participating in the research. I will include the URL for these pages below.

I want to make it clear that we are committed to creating a space where you may live openly, and happily without ridicule and hate, as the individual you are. We understand that the Otherkin and Therian communities are a completely separate entity from the Furry Fandom, but recognize that individuals whom identify as Otherkin or Therian may also identify as Furry. We also understand that individuals may choose not to identify as both Otherkin and Therian.

Facebook groups:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/otherkinidentityresarch/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/therianidentityresearch/

I hope to hear from you!

Lauren Ripley
 

Nøkken

VIP Gold
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#2
I commented this on the sister thread:

I may be interested in participating. The only thing I would like to know more about, if it is possible to disclose this information to me, is what kinds of methodological assumptions, philosophical and psychological literature/theories y'all would be drawing upon in the analysis of this information.

My concern here is that, in previous research, some academics have co-opted the community to front a particular ideological agenda. This was the case for a number of researchers in Religious Studies who have been presenting a complete mischaracterization of the community as a "religious movement" in order to argue for the existence of hyper-real fictional religions qua Adam Possamai and other social constructionists. Their methodological biases inherently invalidate the beliefs and ideas of the community they are studying and some researchers even have had the gall to write our own history for us without any community participation *COUGH* Venetia Robertson. Mind you, Possamai et al haven't even read Baudrillard's concepts of hyperreality in the right light and misunderstand them entirely. (This is probably why a lot of their arguments are borderline incoherent.) Inadvertently, they end up privileging Western monotheistic religions while completely misrepresenting our community.

I mean, look at this pile of ideologically biased shit written with no community participation and arguing that somehow we are a religion formed from fictional sources like role-playing games:
https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/therianthropy/
https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/otherkin/

It's remarkable that someone like that can get away with such poor academic practice just because our community is not visible.

So my question is basically, are y'all going to be approaching this from the 'hyper-real' dungpile of bad philosophy?

If not, I'm game to participate.

If so, I will have to decline and recommend that others do so. I'm already skeptical of y'all because you are lumping Otherkin/Therians together with Furries and Bronies in the description of your research even though you claim to recognize they are independent communities. I don't personally want Otherkin and Therianthropy even mentioned in the same breath as Bronies.

Why can't you just focus upon one community and conduct decent ethnographic research first in order to understand your subject matter before you start trying to use communities to front a philosophical hypothesis on the structure of spiritual identity formulation?

No one that approaches our community gives a damn about ethnographic research. What they care about is using us as an example of some other concept they're interested in, usually "spirituality in the Internet" or "cybercultures" or "youth culture" or "posthumanity" or whatever other agenda ultimately exploits our existence to further a goal that only serves the researcher. It's lazy academic practice because conducting proper ethnographic work is hard. So everyone and their mother relies on these qualitative interviews which can be skewed to say any damn thing they want to say and never actually represent what the community is, nor offer any sound insight into what is occurring in the identities of members without basically reducing it to some other humanistic ideological assumption that deligitimizes the claims of Otherkin and Therians.

It would be nice if, for once, some researcher actually studied our community in and of itself instead of using us as mere data for some other hypothesis that is of no relevance to our community whatsoever.
 
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Charias

Wandering Wolf
#3
I don't think there's anything I can say here that Nokken hasn't already said.

Honestly, I'm not going to participate in any research that groups otherkin/therians in with fandoms. We are not a fandom! And being a furry or a brony is; it's not some deep identification - it's for fun. It's roleplaying and art. Otherkin are not that. We are people who spiritually or psychologically identify as non-human in a way that feels very real to us. This isn't a game, it's who we are on the deepest and most integral level.

I am more than happy to participate in studies on this (admittedly strange and unusual) aspect of my identity, but only if it is respected as a part of who I am, not merely as something I pretend to be, wish I could be, etc. These identities we hold are not something we've chosen. Our experiences do not happen because we want them to. I respect the furry/brony/etc. communities as fandoms, but being a fan of anthropomorphic animals or My Little Pony is so vastly different from being otherkin that I can't even fathom how anyone with even basic knowledge of what the respective communities are, could justify lumping them together.

That's like saying you're studying dogs but including data about cats too because eh, they look kinda similar, right? Two eyes, fur, paws? May as well group them together, right? But, of course, anyone who knows anything about those animals knows how different they are. Grouping them together as if they're even close to synonymous is not going to yield accurate or meaningful results.

It's misrepresenting us. And, frankly, it's unscientific.
 

Shezep

Holy Birb
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#4
You guys raised some good points also, which made me think of another one. If you are approaching our community and labeling it as being a result of internet culture then you've got it backwards. I'm a Gen Xer who fit the profile for being otherkin long before I knew that other people were like this too. I didn't have access to the internet at all during my teenage years while this was developing. I've met a man much older than myself, who never had anything to do with internet culture, who never even heard of otherkin, who also fit the definition.

Being otherkin or therian is a naturally occurring, but rare thing that spontaneously happens to some people. It's not a result of an internet trend. The internet merely provides us with a way to get in touch with each other and realize we're not alone. Yes, I'm sure there are those who are only here because they hopped on the bandwagon. That happens in any community that becomes somewhat known. I'd argue that those people are probably not genuine otherkin who will grow out of it in a few years. Being otherkin is as much a part of me as being left-handed, and just as unlikely to change. Older otherkin tend to drift away from the community, but they don't stop being otherkin. The man I met was an alien until the day he died without any contact with the community at all. The same can not be said for bronies or furries.
 

Nøkken

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#5
I don't think there's anything I can say here that Nokken hasn't already said.

Honestly, I'm not going to participate in any research that groups otherkin/therians in with fandoms. We are not a fandom! And being a furry or a brony is; it's not some deep identification - it's for fun. It's roleplaying and art. Otherkin are not that. We are people who spiritually or psychologically identify as non-human in a way that feels very real to us. This isn't a game, it's who we are on the deepest and most integral level.

I am more than happy to participate in studies on this (admittedly strange and unusual) aspect of my identity, but only if it is respected as a part of who I am, not merely as something I pretend to be, wish I could be, etc. These identities we hold are not something we've chosen. Our experiences do not happen because we want them to. I respect the furry/brony/etc. communities as fandoms, but being a fan of anthropomorphic animals or My Little Pony is so vastly different from being otherkin that I can't even fathom how anyone with even basic knowledge of what the respective communities are, could justify lumping them together.

That's like saying you're studying dogs but including data about cats too because eh, they look kinda similar, right? Two eyes, fur, paws? May as well group them together, right? But, of course, anyone who knows anything about those animals knows how different they are. Grouping them together as if they're even close to synonymous is not going to yield accurate or meaningful results.

It's misrepresenting us. And, frankly, it's unscientific.
The way in which they've presented their intent to research "narrative identity" and not the Otherkin/Therian community itself, and the fact that they're going to lump us together with bronies and furries in their research whether they claim we're independent or not, is bringing back some bad memories.

It reminds me of Eric Stephen Altman's masters thesis "Posthum/an/ous: Identity, Imagination, and the Internet," which was so grossly inaccurate, it treated our identities as constructed personas given names and existing in a fantasy world.

Otherkin and Therians should not even be studied in the same work as Furries and Bronies. I myself do participate in the Furry community, but they are entirely unrelated. And it is amazingly daft that they get treated as the same, supporting the same kinds of hypotheses, all because the researcher's bias doesn't actually investigate the philosophy and beliefs that the community has concerning identity in the first place. Like, for instance, the very idea of considering the nonhuman to be part of the human Self undermines the anthropocentric structure of humanism and the Eurocentric human subject. The furry community does not do this because furries do not consider themselves to actually. be. nonhuman. They aren't an identity community. They're a fandom. To give you an example, it's like confusing transgender folks with cross-dressers. The Otherkin/Therian community is a serious community concerning the ontological nature of one's own being. The furry community is akin to nonhuman drag, a performance art that generates an art-media culture. Furries have conventions. Drag Queens have conventions. Do we have conventions to share art and media? NO.

We have spiritual gatherings, retreats, private events meant to share intellectual discourse and build community. The community is nothing like bronies and furries. It's very disrespectful to just lump them all together in the name of, what I gather, is a hypothesis about the formulation of autobiographical narrative identity with nonhuman elements. In fact, bronies themselves should always be treated as an independent subject matter until that community can garner some professional respect because they're an already highly derogated group, which, by placing us into the same context as them, extends that derogation to us. It's insensitive, and it doesn't recognize the potential ethical consequences for each of the groups individually by placing them together. We would like to establish our own discourse completely independent of those communities, thank you very much.

When you start to look at what Otherkin/Therians believe, it's actually a radical divergence from the history of humanistic oppression of the natural world and nonhuman life. Furries fit perfectly withing capitalistic/consumeristic cultural paradigms, while Otherkin/Therians tend to be misanthropic and view such paradigms as extremely suspect if not downright monstrous toward nonhuman life.

And now lets consider the fact that Davidsen, Kirby and Cussack (those whom I'm certain y'all have read) who came before y'all were extending Possamai's thesis about "New Age religions" and "hyperreality" to the Otherkin/Therian community. Possamai argues that alternative belief systems are a product of consumer culture, which is really disturbing and disrespectful. I reject consumer culture and capitalistic frameworks because they do great evil to nonhuman life, exploiting and destroying the natural world. And here Davidsen, Kirby, et al are claiming that we are some postmodern superficiality of neoliberally structured religion which is amazingly callous, deligitimizing and moreover laughably inaccurate as these beliefs have deep pre-Christian roots and we're not a religion or religious movement in the first place because half the community is not even spiritual.
 
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#6
Hi everyone, I am very new to this site so I did not see this thread before the other. I have responded to Nokken via the other thread, I will attach the link to the other where I address the concerns! I want to say here though that we certainly do not consider Otherkinity or Therianthropy as anything other than completely real. From what we have gathered, Therianthropy and Otherkinity is an identity akin to gender, therefore we are concerned with the journey to finding identity, living with the identity, transgressions, shifts, etc. The only reason we have opened up our research to include Furries and Bronies is because they are also communities that are misrepresented and misunderstood by the broader community, we completely understand that Therinathropy and Otherkinity is not a fandom, however it is a community (which would be likened to that of LGBTQ, catholics, etc.)

I have tried to explain this all in the other thread as best as I can, however as I mentioned in the other thread I am simply a research assistant, therefore I urge you to contact the lead investigator Dr. Clive Baldwin (baldwin@stu.ca) for any additional questions or concerns!

Here is the link to my answer on the other thread: https://www.kinmunity.com/threads/looking-for-research-participants.4719/

Thank you for your comments and concerns, they are extremely helpful for us as we are trying to represent the community as precisely and accurately as we can! To do this we collaborate with our participants, ask their opinions, and we also send our transcripts, the final paper, and anything else that pertains to the research to our participants before they are viewed by anyone other than ourselves!

Lauren Ripley
 
#7
To clear the air, Clive and I have decided to make a statement so that our intentions are understood. The project is about identity and mis-represented communities. We have chosen four such communities, not because we think they are the same and can be 'lumped together' but precisely because they are different from each other and should not be lumped together. In so doing, we hope to help others to understand the different communities. The title of the project is inclusive of the four communities, describing the project's field, and not any relationship between these communities. Through engagement with each of these communities we hope to identify the similarities and differences between them, and thus generate greater understanding of, and respect for, each.

We want to hear YOUR story- the boons and blessings, the shifts, you AHA moments, awakening (pre and post included), and anything in between that you are comfortable sharing with us. All information is anonymous to anyone but us, however if you do not want to share your name with us we respect your request, although we will need a way to contact you (email, Skype, discord, facebook). As soon as you have read the consent form, agreed to the terms, and have participated in an interview we will assign you a code name (for example 2018A).

Lauren