Skip to main content
PhD Research in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures 



Naomi is a 2nd-year PhD candidate at Durham University, her alma mater. She first became interested in law when studying a jurisprudence module during her year abroad at l'Université Sorbonne Paris IV as part of her undergraduate studies in French, Spanish and Italian. Following a Master's degree in Philosophy at the University of Oxford, she began her legal studies in London. In her free time you can probably find her in a park surrounded by squirrels or rehabilitating injured pigeons! Her research is supported by an AHRC Northern Bridge studentship. 

Current Research

Righting Wrongs without Recourse to Rights: Philosophical and Evolutionary Biological Perspectives on the Legal Liberation of Captive Elephants

As it stands, captive animals, having been denied the experience of their own milieux, must meet the forever-narrowing boundaries of legal personhood to be included within an existing framework of rights, and, therefore, permitted to live as animals-as constructors of their own lifeworlds rather than forced to adapt to that of humans. Like anti-pigeon spikes, rights are a form of hostile architecture from which the animal warrants protection from rather than inclusion within; a process of cultural niche construction that so impinges on animals' flourishing that they are caught in a double-bind: no longer at home in either nature or the city. The common inability of captive animals to be rewilded and their proposed relocation to sanctuaries in lieu are used by courts as reasons not to free them, claiming it would be an incomplete form of freedom; in other words, they would move from insufficiently oppressed to insufficiently free. 

Ongoing moves to expand the remit of rights to animals fall short by inadequately imagining and capturing the uniqueness of animal experiences. To define 'animalhood', therefore, the concept underlying my legal framework, I draw on philosophical and theoretical perspectives, my primary corpus consisting of texts by Derrida, Stiegler, Serres, Baratay, and Lévi-Strauss, as well as Itard's enfant sauvage who coinhabits the aforementioned interstice between nature/culture and law/lawlessness.

A cross-reading of historical French texts delineating the human/animal distinction read in turn against my legal corpus, my doctoral project diverges from the dominant juridico-philosophical narrative that views the extension of human rights to animals as the optimal outcome. Rather than seeking to reconcile or emphasize human/animal differences to argue for or against respectively, I focus on the uniqueness of animal experiences, and the the fundamental aporia at the basis of human existence, as the basis for their legislative protection; termed 'animalhood'. Using US habeas corpus cases of zoo elephants as case studies, I develop the concepts of hostility and sanctuary across the disciplines of law, French studies, and philosophy. Drawing inspiration from the emerging dialogue between immigration and animal law, I suggest a framework which focusses on animals' non-comparative animalhood outside of an anthropocentric rights-based rhetoric and grammar, drawing in the irregular immigrant, hostile environment policies, and claims of sanctuary. 

At its core, my project seeks answers to the following questions:

- What might an acapitalist legal system look like, taking as its base the ability of every being to niche construct rather than the current reality of rights rooted in the ownership of private property? 

- Can theorising the human/animal divide help overcome the anthropocentrism that pervades legal representations of zoo animals?

- Attempts to extend rights to animals follow several main strands: (1) arguments for the inclusion of animals because they are sufficiently intelligent and/or morally equivalent to humans; (2) claims that personhood has nothing to do with humanness; and (3) alternative taxonomies to personhood that are interstitial and/or comparative (e.g., living property). Viewing these methods as inherently anthropocentric, and therefore problematic, how might we reach a posthumanist definition of 'animalhood'?

- What, indeed, is wrong with animal rights?

- How might we view animals as something other than imperfect humans or victims requiring rescue by way of rights?

As well as Professor Moore, my supervisory team consists of Dr Michael Lewis (Newcastle Philosophy) and Dr Joshua Jowitt (Newcastle Law).


  • 2023 (accepted, forthcoming) '"Right, left, or in any direction": Heterotopic zoo animals and the right to a way out' in Heterotopia, Radical Imagination, and Shattering Orders: Manifesting a Future of Liberated Animals (ed. Paula Arcari, Routledge)


  • Accepted paper, 'What is Nature? Deciphering the Knot of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Animal Law' at the Life Beyond the Anthropocene: The Human and Ecological Attunement Conference, King's University College at Western University, Ontario, Canada, 17-18th March 2023
  • Accepted paper, 'Searching for Stiegler's "new state of law in the face of automisation": What is wrong with animal rights?' at the Automation and Automatism/s Conference, King's College London, 28th January 2023
  • Accepted paper, 'Rights as Hostile Architecture' as part of the 'Animals and the City' strand of the Philosophy of the City Annual Conference in collaboration with the LABONT Centre for Ontology of the University of Turin, 20-22nd October 2022
  • Accepted Paper at Hyde Park Session of the Theory of Animal Law Conference, University of Helsinki, 17-18th July 2022
  • Co-organiser and chair, Representing Nonhuman Animals Conference, Durham University, supported by The UK Centre of Animal Law and funded by Durham's Institute of Advanced Study

Research interests

  • Animal Minds
  • Continental Philosophy
  • Definitions of Personhood
  • Feminist Theory
  • French Literature
  • Jurisprudence
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophical Anthropology
  • Philosophy of Biology
  • Philosophy of the City
  • Rights Critiques
  • Socio-Legal Studies
  • Speciesism