Animal Inventory Blog

Keeping track of animals in popular culture.

Who, What, Where, When, Why: Human-Animal Studies

Posted by lisagbrown on June 3, 2008

WHAT is human-animal studies (HAS)? This is a question that scholars continue to debate, without much consensus. In my mind, HAS is an interdisciplinary perspective that examines the relationships between humans and other animals. More specifically, it is (ideally) a perspective that values the experiences and intrinsic worth of both humans and animals. HAS embraces art, literature, science, social science, philosophy … all with an eye towards a greater understanding of animals, and our interactions with them.

WHO are animals? Who are we as nonhuman animals? And who are we to each other?

WHERE, WHEN and WHY: One way to begin answering these questions is by exploring the literature that deals with this broad range of topics.

HAS scholar Wendy Lochner (the Columbia University Press animal studies editor) has written a post for the Columbia University Press blog. In it, she briefly explores what HAS means to her, and how the literature she reads deepens her scholarship. An excerpt from her blog entry reads:

I began to read work by Cora Diamond, Cary Wolfe, John Coetzee, Alice Crary, and others, who convinced me of the power of literature to advance the animal issue. Soon I discovered that many ethologists, religion scholars, and sociologists were also committed to showing the scientific, social-scientific, and humanities bases for a loving involvement with animals as part of a worldview in which the “question of the animal” becomes a fundamental concern of critical inquiry, one in which the terms, concepts, and forms of evidence that we use can themselves be questioned in terms of the presuppositions they make about animals and human—and nonhuman—animal relationships. What is required is no less than a radical rethinking of the nature of humanity itself as inextricably cojoined with our nonhuman kin and in common cause with them.

Lochner’s short essay can be read in full by going to Why Animal Studies Now? A Short Personal Note from the Editor.

A list of animal studies titles available from Columbia University Press can be  accessed on their website.

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