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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

American Cerberus: Pit Bulls and Psyche in the United States
by Zinda, Elizabeth Selena, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2017, 481; 10606561
Abstract (Summary)

Dogs categorized as pit bulls are entangled with American sociocultural and psychological dynamics, and alternately imagined as noble, vicious, and sweet. Depth psychology holds that untended unconscious dynamics overwhelm situations and manifest in undesired ways such as violence and oppression. This research explored the unconscious dynamics in pit bull phenomena and asked whether archetypal understandings of these phenomena can promote compassion, social justice, and well-being for dogs and humans. Employing a hermeneutic methodology with a depth psychological lens, this research sought an archetypal understanding of pit bull fighting, breed-specific legislation (BSL), negative breed-based stereotypes, and pit bull rescue and advocacy through hermeneutic dialogues with texts representing these phenomena. Findings showed that the worlds of White dogfighters and game dog breeders contain a complex array of archetypal elements, including archetypes of Warrior, Hero, Wise Old Man, and Magician, and themes of initiation and alchemy. These worlds are also sites for productions of White American heteromasculine personae. Other findings showed that BSL, negative breed stereotypes, and pit bull rescue and advocacy represent transformations of the pit bull image through alchemical stages of destructive nigredo and purifying albedo. These stages showed how the pit bull image emerges from White social anxieties and is employed to reestablish White comfort. An integrated rubedo stage of the pit bull image, in which all of these dynamics are made conscious, is promoted to support social justice and well-being for dogs and humans.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kipnis, Aaron
Commitee: Stevens, Maurice, Weaver, Harlan
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Emphasis in Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Social psychology
Keywords: Alchemy, Archetypal, Breed specific legislation, Dogfighting, Pets, Pit bull rescue, Social justice
Publication Number: 10606561
ISBN: 978-0-355-11834-6
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