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.

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