For a world beyond speciesism
Hi there, and welcome to my website! My name is Brenda.
I am an artist, researcher, primatologist (a.k.a. professional monkey obsessor), passionate and compassionate conservationist, and animal rights advocate on a mission to make the world a better place for all sentient beings who call this planet home.
If there is one thing you need to know about me, it is that I am all about animals. I study their lives and minds, and create art and stories to advocate for the acknowledgement of their intrinsic value, moral standing and rights. I believe that it is high time to shift humanity’s anthropocentric worldview into a sentiocentric one, and I use my art and research to advance this (r)evolution.
This website is a journal and portfolio of my animal-infused odyssey. Welcome aboard, and feel free to roam around!
2023 - Now
I am currently a PhD student in Primatology at the Department of Anthropology, UCLA. My research focuses on the affective and caring relationships of primates, and includes topics such as trust, cuteness, and infant handling. I am particularly interested in langurs (Trachypithecus spp.).
My ambition is to build bridges between ethology, anthropology, (human/critical) animal studies and ethics.
2020 - 2023
Research Assistant & Teacher
I am currently a teacher at Leiden University and conducting some research and paper writing on the side. I am affiliated with the Comparative Psychology and Affective Neuroscience (CoPAN) lab.
DISI Fellow & Project Coordinator
The Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI) is a 4-week full-time program hosted by the UCLA and funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. As a participant, I lead a project exploring the opportunities of using ethnographic methods to study animal behaviour, minds and societies.
Since 2022 I worked as a Project Coordinator for DISI.
2019 - 2020
MA Ecology Futures
I followed the MA Ecology Futures visual arts and research pathway at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures. In my projects I critically analysed anthropocentrism in society and minds, and aimed to envision a sentiocentric alternative.
2013 - 2014
MSc Primate Conservation
Specialisations: conservation education and the phylogeny, conservation and behaviour of Asian colobines (leaf-eating monkeys).
2009 - 2012
BSc Psychology (Hons)
Major in Social Psychology | Honours student
Thesis: Primate empathy: Review of the evidence in two taxa.
Poster presented at the conference Evolution & Human Behaviour in the Low Countries, April 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
– Evolution and Human Behaviour
– Animal Cognition
– Philosophy of Mind
– Climate Change
Upgrading ethology in the animal turn
I developed a new cross-disciplinary method for studying other animals (i.e. their behaviour, culture and subjective experiences), that takes them seriously as nonhuman persons, agents and subjects of a situated life. It carries the working title animal ethnography, as it applies ethnographic techniques including (but not limited to) participant observation, thick description and video. The approach embraces the collection and publication of qualitative data, to compliment, enrich and deepen existing quantitative studies, with the aim to promote a high level of scientific rigour while facilitating a holistic understanding of animal lives, societies, behaviours and minds.
The Moral Standing of Animals
The psychology of speciesism
How much moral concern do we have for different animals? And to what extend does their sentience, cognitive capacity and likability explain their respective places on the circle of moral concern? In this study explore people’s evaluations of moral standing of a large range of animal species, and the cognitive and affective determinants that contribute to this evaluation.
This study is currently ongoing, and you can participate!
Click the button below to fill out the online survey (~15-20 minutes).
It all started when my mother gave 3-year-old me a pencil and a piece of paper. I simply never let it go. I drew my way through childhood, fueled by the animals who I ‘studied’ through drawing. Later I added sculpture – which is essentially drawing in 3D – and writing to the mix.
While I love the practice for its own sake, I think art can also play a valuable role for science and animal ethics.
First, art can communicate scientific knowledge and ideas to a broad audience, as it can be viewed, understood and enjoyed by people of all ages, cultures, and corners of society. Thus, through art, academics can reach masses of people.
Second, works of art have the ability to make people feel. Given that emotions are the leading drivers for our actions, it is art that has the potential to change people’s mindsets and behaviour.
And last but not least: art can show us an alternative of the world as it is. Through visual art and storytelling, we are able to share our visions of the world as it could be. If we know what our envisioned future looks like, then we can go build the path that leads there.
Now combine the ability of art to inform masses of people, make them feel intensely, and to deliver an image of a world we want to work towards, then I think art has great potential for changing the world for the better.
Fun fact: this website started as a vegan blog, to help inspire a wide audience to adopt a vegan lifestyle, a.k.a. become practicing sentientists.
My life has evolved, but you can still read the articles under the header Vegan Monkey. Note that only some articles are translated into English, since my audience was predominantly Dutch.
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