Identity and Belief: An Analysis of the Otherkin Subculture


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Author’s Bio: I’m Stephanie Shea, founder/creator of Rejected Religion. I hold a Research Masters in Religious Studies from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. My research interests are located in the areas of Western esotericism, and emergent identity groups. My motto is “illuminating the obscure”  — I strive to provide a historical viewpoint that aims to share information and to highlight misconceptions surrounding all things ‘esoteric’ or ‘occult’ in an engaging and entertaining way — no stuffy, boring lectures, but instead, down-to-earth discussions about topics that are often vague and therefore misunderstood.

Wildpath’s Summary: “Identity and Belief: An Analysis of the Otherkin Subculture” is Stephanie Shea’s Research Masters Thesis for the University of Amsterdam in Religious Studies, the culmination of nearly six years of study of the Otherkin community. Shea situates other-than-human identities within broader history, recognizing that these identities have existed long before the modern era. Her analysis identifies problems with how previous researchers (Kirby, Robertson, Laycock, and Davidson) have treated Otherkin and other-than-human identities as only “religious,” “socially constructed,” or “fictional” and demonstrates that her own data, combined with data that Wildpath has provided from our first survey, conflicts with the assumptions, research methods and conclusions they have reached. Shea concludes that Otherkin and other-than-human identities cannot be reduced to only spiritual/socially constructed “human” frameworks, but must be understood as “a philosophy of a state of being nonhuman.” This is significant for our communities because it broadens the scope of research beyond the narrow confines of individual academic disciplines and the readily-made conclusions such disciplines reach when dealing with what is a complex form of other-than-human identity, and not a social movement or belief system. Philosophy (and identity as an ontological state), is, by nature, interdisciplinary. Reductive accounts and methodological assumptions that previous researchers have given, which treat other-than-human identities as only “human social constructs,” are inadequate for approaching the subject matter, because, as identities, they entangle significantly with other-than-human being which is always-already outside of the confines of “reduction to humanity.” It is Wildpath’s stance that such reductions display inherent anthropocentric bias, and that Shea’s work demonstrates that this bias is methodologically inadequate for representing the subject matter of other-than-human identities with regard to their empirical actuality (being significantly entangled with other-than-human being in ontological modes beyond the boundaries of human social construction) and not the projections of other researchers’ anthropocentric dispositions.