Human-Animal Studies – The ASB Editors’ Favorite Picks (Part II)

By Maria Moss

Claudine André with a bonobo. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_language#/media/File:Claudine_andre.jpg

When we think about relationships between human animals and non-human animals, we often think of the relationship between guardians and pets. However, there’s so much more to the topic. This week, I’ll continue our series on Digital American Studies by sharing with you some wonderful videos on human-animal studies I found useful for undergraduate classes. Whenever I teach ecocritical theory – for instance my project seminar, “Study & Save: Eco-Critical Theory in Action” – I make sure it always has a practical component. And even in seminars on North American culture, ecocritical topics (e.g. fracking, plastic oceans, deforestation, and loss of species) are always part of the deal.

Let’s start with a video clip that sarcastically reverses human and animal roles – and thus gives instructors and students some food for thought. The next interesting video is a 7-minute crash course (mostly with cartoon images) on human-animal studies that provides a first glimpse into the topic. For a more comprehensive introduction to human-animal studies, watch the mastermind behind the entire animal liberation movement, Australian philosopher Peter Singer.

One of the most contested philosophical aspects about human-animal studies is the issue of speciesism. Speciesism meansassigning different values, rights, or special considerations to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership. The term is increasingly used by animal rights advocates who argue that speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism. Speciesism is considered the main culprit in our interactions with non-human animals because it reinforces human superiority and the property status of animals. Here’s an introduction to this imperative issue. For an understanding of animal emotions, watch Barbara J. King, anthropologist and author of – among many others – Personalities on the Plate (2017), speak on “Grief and Joy in the Animal Kingdom”:

Hope you found some of these sources useful. Next week, I’ll provide you with some more on a topic not so common in the field of human-animal studies: interspecies relationships.