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origin, 2 and urban nature—society relations. In particular, we wish to explore in
detail the ways in which attitudes towards animals in the city are formed, and the
role of cultural difference in shaping attitude formation. Ultimately, we expect the
insights gained from such finely textured analysis to inform understandings of both
human interactions in the city (among groups with divergent attitudes towards
animals and nature) and the full spectrum of attitudes towards animals, with
implications for coexistence.
To this end, we designed and conducted a series of focus groups in Los Angeles,
California. Focus groups allow participants to express their ideas in a relatively
unconstrained fashion, and to react to one another's statements. Thus this
technique is well suited to the task of clarifying issues of culture and race/ethnicity,
and the socio-economic contexts of attitude formation. Since prior research
indicates significant gender and class differences in attitudes towards animals, we
restricted our focus groups to relatively homogeneous participants: within each
group, members were low-income inner-city women. Groups differed from each
other primarily along lines of race/ethnicity and immigrant status. This enabled us
to focus on the nature of attitudes towards animals within relatively homogeneous
groups. Comparative analysis of findings from the series of focus groups will allow us
in the future to explore race/ethnic and other cultural variations in attitudes towards
animals, and the role that cultural background may play in attitude formation and
everyday transspecies practice.
In this chapter, we describe and analyse a single focus group involving eleven low-
income African-American women living in central Los Angeles. Particular effort was
devoted to eliciting detailed accounts from these women, to enable us to put
attitudes into cultural and social class context, delineating linkages between
attitudes and behavioural interaction patterns. In addition to drawing on prior
studies of African-American attitudes towards animals and the environment, our
interpretation of the focus group discussion was based on identifying attitudes, the
arguments that participants selected to support or denigrate them, and on clarifying
how these arguments fit into the elaboration of distinct cultural models of attitudes.
Participants also provided us with narratives and anecdotes about the cultural and
social meanings of animals and of the human activities that relate to them.
Altogether we obtained a rich sampling of attitudes and practices. The main themes
to emerge from our discussion with the women in our focus group highlight the
roles of generational and class position, urban/rural background, and membership in
a historically oppressed and currently marginalised social group. These socio-
cultural contexts shape their personal identities, everyday practices and values/
attitudes, including their perspectives on animals and appropriate human—animal
relations. Anthropocentric and biocentric attitudes quickly emerged in the
discussion, along with a number of other, less commonly articulated attitudes.
The remainder of our discussion is organised into four sections. First, we describe
our focus group participants and the logistical and analytic procedures used. Next,
we characterise participant practices and interactions with animals, and their
knowledge and perceptions of animals in order to understand the role of animals in
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