I am Verónica Policarpo

Human-Animal Studies researcher

I am a Human-Animal Studies researcher, with a background in social sciences, sociology, and communication.  My approach is interdisciplinary and cross-thematic, and my current research interests are focused on understanding whether human-animal practices contribute to the development of a more equal and cooperative attitude towards other species, challenging inter-species barriers. I am interested in a more-than-human approach in which all living beings are considered as equivalent stakeholders and collaborators in the co-construction of the shared worlds they inhabit.

In 2022 I was awarded an European Research Council Consolidator Grant to study how animals recover from catastrophic fires. The ABIDE  project certainly expresses my life’s purpose: creating a safer world for all animals to flourish, nonhuman and human alike. Since May 2023 I am giving much of my life and passion to make it happen. Other specific lines of inquiry in my work include the relationships with companion animals; death, grief and mourning; wildlife conservation, biopolitics, death, and extinction; or media and other representations of animals. In 2016, I took a leap-of-faith turn in my career and joined ICS-ULisboa, where I created and currently convene the Human-Animal Studies Hub, contributing to consolidate this field in Portugal. Since 2019, I co-coordinate an International Summer School in Human Animal Studies, and since 2020 a Postgraduate Course on Animals and Society for Portuguese speaking students, which is starting its third edition in 2024. Since 2018, I have been coordinating the Animal Wonder Reading Group on Human-Animal Studies, and since 2021, the webinar The Post-Human Animal. I am also the organiser of several conferences and other scientific events in the field of Human-Animal Studies, such as the HAS-Hub Annual Seminar. 

Animals have been in my life and imagination since I remember. I shared lives with many dogs, parakeets, canaries, fish, turtles, hamsters. A particular dog called Piloto changed my life and taught me much about the power of selfless love. In 2011, I adopted Mostarda, a ginger male cat who had been left behind, in a street colony. And two years later, Coco, the siamese female cat, joined the gang, after being found inside the motor of a car. Since 2017 I have been lucky enough to bring together two of my many life-passions: animals and scientific research. They often benefit from my many other passions. 

One of the most grounding ones is the daily practice of Buddhist contemplative meditation, in the Thai Forest Tradition. Sitting, walking and applying it to every breath, attunes me to the many-fold inner and outer worlds around me, enabling me to meet them with radical acceptance. This spiritual and existential quest has also led me through mountains and valleys, as when I spent one month as a backpacker in Thailand, Cambodja, Vietnam and Laos, in 2019. Or when I walked Saint James Way for the first time, also in 2019. An experience to be repeated, for sure. Besides continuous individual practice, I also find great energy in contributing as an active member of my community of meditation practitioners and friends. 

Collective and volunteering work has actually been in my life since my early years as a college student, having been a volunteer for different organisations, such as Unicef Portugal. Fundraising, reading and recording audiobooks to the visually impaired, or working with deprived communities, were among my tasks as a volunteer. In 2018 I joined a wonderful team at Refood Portugal. And in 2020 I decided to expand my contribution as a volunteer in two ways: internationally, with NGO ParaOnde, in non-european countries; and to work with animals and wildlife conservation. The pandemia postponed these plans for a while, but in 2021 they are back on track, in Cape Verde and the Maio Biodiversity Foundation , to work in the turtle protection project.

The qualities of insight developed through meditation find an immeasurable terrain of exploration in Focusing, which I am absolutely passionate about. Here I find the spaciousness and safety that comes from connecting to our inner resources, and the ways our body and mind relate to each other, and heal. I began my journey in Focusing in 2018, at Centro Upaya, in Lisbon. In 2021 decided to dive deep into untangling some of the knots that are still blocking me to fully express myself, and flow at ease and radical acceptance. I am currently exploring ways to turn this passion into a contribution to others.

Astrology is another passion, fed by an insatiable curiosity around the unnoticed magic that holds things together. Its symbolic and ancient language that goes back to the sumerians brings me an intuitive gaze at the world, very different from science. As a geek that I am, I am currently pursuing my studies of the teachings of ancient traditional masters, whose legacy has influenced astronomers, historians and other scholars for centuries. Oh, and for those of you who are curious about these matters: my Sun, Venus and Mercury are all conjunct in Pisces, my Moon is in Cancer, and my Ascendant in Aquarius.

All this adds to other passions that have always helped me to navigate the landscape of over-rationalized knowledge, when it becomes dry and uninspiring. Poetry, literature and writing are those I always return to, when things get tougher. I have long struggled with the inner longing to express poetically my standing in life, though something keeps holding me back. This poetic stance also finds itself at home with cinema, spending time with the ocean and the trees, cooking, knitting or crocheting, making new friends, travelling, and journaling. 

A common thread runs across these many-fold interests: a feeling of internal and external resonance. An inspirational keyword? Compassion. 

I also take an interest in the powers of communication and connection, and occasionally tweet at @VMPolicarpo .  

Find more about my academic profile here: Orcid // Ciencia Vitae // ICS-ULisboa

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