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Social Creatures: A Human and Animal Studies Reader

by Clifton P. Flynn

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I like to date the start of the contemporary animal rights movement in 1965. This is the year The Sunday Times in London published the landmark essay, “The Rights of Animals,” by the erudite novelist, Brigid Brophy. It began:

Were it announced tomorrow that anyone who fancied it might, without risk of reprisals or recriminations, stand at a fourth-storey window, dangle out of it a length of string with a meal (labelled ‘Free’) on the end, wait till a chance passer-by took a bite and then, having entangled his cheek or gullet on a hook hidden in the food, haul him up to the fourth floor and there batter him to death with a knobkerrie, I do not think there would be many takers.

Twelve years earlier, Brophy’s novel, Hackenfeller’s Ape, brilliantly plays out the arguments we know well today about the how and why, the could and the should, of our confused and contradictory relationship with animals. The animal rights essay caused a ripple at the time but Brophy’s pen continues to dazzle and sparkle in the light that now shines that bit more brightly on our relations with animals. She explored the fundamentals of what animal rights means which, in the last 40 plus years, hundreds of philosophers, social scientists, humanitarians, scientists, lawyers, activists and others have expounded upon. Indeed, my personal collection of books relating to animals now exceeds more than 1,300 titles.

If you want more than the latest “how-to-become-an-animal-right-activist” and if you want to deepen your understanding of human-animal relations, where do you begin? I believe Brophy would have been delighted with two recently published and complementary anthologies.

The first is a revised and updated edition of The Animal Ethics Reader edited by Susan J. Armstrong and Richard G. Botzler. It brings together both classic and contemporary readings. It is comprehensively organized into 10 sections (e.g., Theories of Animal Ethics, Animal Experimentation, Animal Law/Animal Activism), which includes 87 articles written by such experts as Tom Regan, Jane Goodall, Carol J. Adams, Donald R. Griffin, Lynda Birke and J. Baird Callicott. Each section ends with a list of further reading and a set of study questions. It is ideal for both activist thinkers and scholars.

Whereas The Animal Ethics Reader is broad in scope, the second anthology, Social Creatures, is focused on the emerging academic field of human-animal studies. HAS is one of our three primary program areas. Indeed, my ASI colleague, Ken Shapiro, has been in the forefront of human-animal studies from its inception and contributes two articles to this collection. Several of the articles included were originally published in the Society & Animals academic journal edited by Ken.

The anthology’s editor, Clifton P. Flynn, explains how HAS asks “What can we learn about ourselves from our relationships with other animals? What does the way we think about and treat other animals teach us about who we are?” This is answered by such authorities as Barbara Noske, James A. Serpell, David Nibert and Josephine Donovan. Social Creatures is organized into nine sections covering historical and comparative perspectives of HAS, criminology and deviance, inequality and living and working with other animals.

“Where animals are concerned,” Brophy wrote “humanity seems to have switched off its morals and aesthetics—indeed, its very imagination.” These two essential anthologies demonstrate that someone’s finger is flicking on the light switch. ( )
  grumpyvegan | Dec 18, 2008 |
Anthrozoology, A to Z

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the publisher's invitation.)

In Social Creatures: A Human and Animal Studies Reader, editor Clifton P. Flynn has assembled a diverse selection of writing and research on the topic of Human-Animal Studies (HAS).

HAS (also called anthrozoology) is, quite simply, the study of human-animal interactions. Because of its multidisciplinary approach, HAS is a vast and varied field; human-animal interactions can be examined through a multitude of lenses, including psychology, sociology, ethology, anthropology, zoology, veterinary medicine, health science, history, philosophy, women’s studies and ethnic studies. Consequently, scholarship in this field represents a motley body of work.

Social Creatures both reflects and embraces the heterogeneity of Human-Animal Studies. The thirty-one pieces in this hefty volume are grouped into nine topics: An Emerging Field; Studying Human-Animal Relationships; Historical and Comparative Perspectives; Animals and Culture; Attitudes towards Other Animals; Criminology and Deviance; Inequality - Interconnected Oppressions; Living and Working with Other Animals; and Animal Rights - Philosophy and Social Movement. A number of subjects are touched upon, including the human-animal bond; religious perspectives on animal rights; animal rights philosophy; the effects of gender on attitudes towards animal rights and participation in animal rights activism; correlations between support for animal rights and other social causes; grief in companion animal caretakers and shelter workers; and links between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence, including child and partner abuse, to name but a few.

Given the broad scope of Human-Animal Studies, Flynn does an excellent job of representing the major areas of research in the field. Culled from an assortment of books and academic journals (a number of papers originally appeared in the “big two” anthrozoology journals - PSYETA's Society & Animals and ISAZ's Anthrozoos), Flynn includes some seminal works in the field. Chapters from Carol Adams’s The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory and Marjorie Spiegel’s The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery come to mind; Adams and Spiegel vividly demonstrate the intersectionality of oppressions, be it animals/women or animals/people of color, respectively. While I read these chapters in their original context some time ago, I highly enjoyed re-reading them as part of an anthrozoology anthology, placed alongside similar essays.

Speaking of intersecting or parallel oppressions, I’m pleased to see that Social Creatures does not shy away from examining how various “isms” intertwine with and feed upon one another. The anthology includes an entire grouping devoted to the subject (“Inequality – Interconnected Oppressions”); in addition to Adams’s and Spiegel’s pieces, this section includes an essay by David Nibert, originally published in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy entitled “Humans and Other Animals: Sociology’s Moral and Intellectual Challenge.” Happily, the subject of intersecting oppressions is not limited to an isolated subsection; essays which examine the intersection of animal advocacy, race, ethnicity and gender can be found throughout the book, and the concluding section on animal rights philosophy includes a wonderful re-examination of Singer and Regan’s animal rights philosophies by (eco)feminist Josephine Donovan (“Animal Rights and Feminist Theory”).

As all but one of the pieces in Social Creatures have previously appeared elsewhere, students and newcomers to the field will probably benefit most from this reader. As an animal rights advocate, former psychology student and layperson interested in the field, I highly enjoyed the selections chosen for inclusion by Flynn. The table of contents (copied below) reads like a “who’s who” in the field, and serves as an effective starting point for those who are curious about Human-Animal Studies. Many of the contributors have authored books (or edited anthologies) themselves.

In addition to Adams’s and Spiegel’s tomes, other works on my bookshelf include Between Pets and People, by Alan Beck and Aaron Katcher; Animal Models of Human Psychology, by Kenneth J. Shapiro; Regarding Animals, by Arnold Arluke and Clinton Sanders; In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships, by James Serpell; Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention, by Frank R. Ascione and Phil Arkow; and Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, by Carol Adams and Josephine Donovan.

Social Creatures also features a 34-page reference list, an invaluable resource for those who’d like to use the book as a jumping-off point for further research.

While many laypeople may think that anthrozoology is the domain of academics, theorists and scientists, animal advocates can also benefit greatly from HAS research. For example, the link between interpersonal violence and animal abuse can help animal advocates lobby for stronger animal cruelty laws; likewise, the intersection of partner and animal abuse provides activists with a sound argument with which to persuade women’s shelters to accept companion animals. Similarly, many animal organizations, recognizing the importance of “market research,” conduct polls so that they can tailor their message effectively to different demographics. Clearly, animal advocates have much to learn from anthroozology as well.

Contents

Social Creatures: An Introduction, Clifton P. Flynn

Part I: An Emerging Field

1. Introduction to Human-Animal Studies, Kenneth J. Shapiro
2. The Zoological Connection: Animal-related Human Behavior, Clifton Bryant
3. The Animal Question in Anthropology, Barbara Noske

Part II: Studying Human-Animal Relationships

4. Understanding Dogs through Kinesthetic Empathy, Social Construction, and History, Kenneth J. Shapiro
5. Future Directions in Human-Animal Bond Research, Alan M. Beck and Aaron H. Katcher
6. Understanding Dogs: Caretakers’ Attributions of Mindedness in Canine-Human Relationships, Clinton R. Sanders

Part III: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

7. Speciesism, Anthropocentrism, and Non-Western Cultures, Barbara Noske
8. The Anthropology of Conscience, Michael Tobias
9. The Emergence of Modern Pet-keeping, Harriet Ritvo

Part IV: Animals and Culture

10. Animal Rights as Religious Vision, Andrew Linzey
11. The Power of Play, Leslie Irvine
12. There’s Not Enough Room to Swing a Dead Cat and There’s No Use Flogging a Dead Horse, Tracey Smith-Harris

Part V: Attitudes towards Other Animals

13. Gender, Sex-role Orientation and Attitudes toward Animals, Harold Herzog, Nancy S. Betchart, and Robert B. Pittman
14. Childhood Pet Keeping and Humane Attitudes in Young Adulthood, Elizabeth S. Paul and James A. Serpell
15. Animal Rights and Human Social Issues, David Nibert

Part VI: Criminology and Deviance

16. Children Who Are Cruel to Animals: A Review of Research and Implications for Developmental Psychology, Frank R. Ascione
17. Childhood Cruelty to Animals and Subsequent Violence against Humans, Linda. Merz-Perez, Kathleen M. Heide, and Ira J. Silverman
18. Women’s Best Friend: Pet Abuse and the Role of Companion Animals in the Lives of Battered Women, Clifton P. Flynn
19. Hoarding of Animals: An Under-recognized Public Health Problem in a Difficult-to-study Population, Gary J. Patronek

Part VII: Inequality - Interconnected Oppressions

20. An Historical Understanding, Marjorie Spiegel
21. The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol J. Adams
22. Humans and Other Animals: Sociology’s Moral and Intellectual Challenge, David Nibert

Part VIII: Living and Working with Other Animals

23. The Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions, Andrew N. Rowan and Alan M. Beck
24. Personality Characteristics of Dog and Cat Persons, Rose M. Perrine and Hannah L. Osbourne
25. Human Grief Resulting from the Death of a Pet, Gerald H. Gosse and Michael J. Barnes
26. Loving Them to Death: Blame-displacing Strategies of Animal Shelter Workers and Surrenderers, Stephen Frommer and Arnold Arluke
27. Savages, Drunks, and Lab Animals: The Researcher’s Perception of Pain, Mary T. Phillips

Part IX: Animal Rights - Philosophy and Social Movement

28. All Animals are Equal, Peter Singer
29. The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan
30. Animal Rights and Feminist Theory, Josephine Donovan
31. Caring about Blood, Flesh, and Pain: Women’s Standing in the Animal Protection Movement, Lyle Munro

http://www.easyvegan.info/2008/06/11/anthrozoology-a-to-z-book-review-social-cre... ( )
  smiteme | Jun 11, 2008 |
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