Ashley Drake

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9291

Approve Date

April 19, 2016

Project Title

Drake, Ashley E., U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Militarizing Affection: The Making of the Military Working Dog Team,' supervised by Dr. Martha K. McClintock

Preliminary abstract: This project explores the U.S. Military’s attempts to engineer and deploy human-animal affective relationships as biotechnological equipment. The military treats the affective bond between military working dogs (MWDs) and their human handlers as an organic form of ‘specialized equipment’ and recently committed vast resources to further isolate, perfect, and reproduce this bond. However, attempts to essentialize the bond into a series of characteristics that can be reproduced technologically have not resulted in the intended optimization of this essential trait. How do MWD teams complicate both scholarly narratives of military biotechnological innovation and the military’s own internal descriptions of its program goals? I will conduct 12 months of multi-sited ethnographic research with the U.S. Military’s working dog program in order to assess: (1) the ways that the bond is cultivated in both dogs and handlers through training techniques, classroom discussions, informal interactions, and pre-deployment exercises; (2) the practices by which military animal behaviorists hope to improve bonding through the evaluation of dog-handler team performance and other outcome measures; and (3) how the creation and mobilization of human-animal affective relationships reconfigures the meanings of biotechnology, relationality, and embodiment in the U.S. Military. In doing so, I ask: How is the dog-handler bond being remade by discourses and material practices of war? What is the legacy for human-animal affective relationships in their work as biotechnological equipment? And how is the dog-handler relationship being used to possibly redefine and reshape conceptualizations of biotechnology?