Ayla McCullough's research emerges from the intersections of southern childhood studies, critical animal studies, and affect theory. She examines how scalar categories of "life" are rendered non-rehabilitative within a biopolitical order. Broadly she theorizes life adjacent to bare life through stunting, wasting, maiming and other forms of so-called deterioration. In particular, she foregrounds postcolonial and settler-colonial contexts where humanitarian and legal discourses apprehend life through Western metrics of growth and development. Employing a decolonial feminist methodology, her project emphasizes temporalities of the endemic in order to reconfigure "low life expectancy" in multispecies ecologies of the global south. Drawing primarily on medical, anthropological, historical, and literary archives, her case studies include Covid orphans, 19th century transnational Ayahs, and the Sundarbans. Apprehending scalar life across these sites exposes kinship as a biopolitical framework that must be deconstructed for multispecies justice in a deteriorating world.
In her teaching she employs decolonial and transnational feminisms as well as philosophy, anthropology, and psychoanalysis to critically assess issues in kinship, animal, and childhood studies.
She has a forthcoming article in a special issue of Adoption & Culture titled “‘You don’t know when the next transition will arrive’: Orphanness, Maiming, and Ephemeral Care in Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.”
- Rutgers School of Graduate Studies Dean’s Fellowship, 2020