This summer I’ve read a number of books that fit into the grouping of animal studies. Interestingly most of these came from Columbia University Press. A year ago I didn’t even know that animal studies existed, and now it seems to be popping up everywhere: example one and example two. Hell, even my school is offering an animal studies course without actually calling it as such:
Animal Metaphors. When humans place themselves above and beyond nature, they are more likely to engage in practices that are destructive to the environment. The purpose of this course is to discover how and why humans so often define themselves in opposition to the animal world, and to use both art and science in order to explore alternative identities that would help us come to terms with our own “animal” being. As we consider stories about animals in various works of literature and film, we study humans themselves as a species to which evolution has bequeathed a host of traits and capacities, including the capacity for story-telling. Readings in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology help us to reframe questions of human identity in relation to animals. Towards the end of the course, we examine ways in which various cultural narratives, including ecocriticism, have been transformed by a more scientifically informed appreciation of animals as metaphors, and of humans as “metaphorizing animals.”
So I began looking around to see if there were any animal studies programs, and all I could find was the graduate specialization at Michigan State. Does anyone know of any others?
I’m really liking this trend towards multi- and interdisciplinary explorations of subjects (most of the courses I’ve taken in school were in urban studies, women studies, media studies, and american culture), and I’m also glad to see that many manifestations of animal studies are largely critical with an eye towards improving human and nonhuman interactions.
The most disappointing aspect of animal studies so far?
You guessed it: the field is dominated by white men. Which could help explain why so many of the books coming out are boring explorations into the same Derrida text (I love Derrida, but let us do something new). I want to see some queer theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, crip theory, postcolonial theory and so on and so forth intersecting with animal studies.