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Human-Animal Studies: Courses in American Studies

American Studies Overview

This is a list of colleges and universities around the world who provide courses for American Studies in relation to the human-animal relationship.  This includes the name of the college, the name of the course, who is teaching the course, and brief description of the American Studies course that the instructor will be covering.


California State University, Long Beach

Animals in American Culture

Brett Mizelle

Interdisciplinary examination of the role of non-human animals in making cultural meaning. Traces the many ways in which animals, not just humans, have shaped American history and culture.


College of William and Mary

Animal Americans: Human Animal Relationships and the Creation of America

Merit Kaschig

Non-human animals are part and particle of our everyday lives. We depend on them for sustenance, for clothes and for labor. We watch them on TV, read about them in books and magazines, fight them as “pests,” nurture them as “helpers,” contain them in zoos, draft them for wars, play with them at home, and train them to assist us at work and in emergencies.  Most importantly, we project our fears, hopes and desires onto them. Engaging with scholarship across disciplines, this course will study the relationships between human and non-human animals in historical perspective in order to shed light on the construction of US-identities from colonial times to the present.  Through the course of the semester, our investigation of literature of history, anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, psychology, and biology as well as of motion pictures, cartoons, web-sites, nature shows, and magazines will, I hope, allow us to do the following: First, look at animal bodies as sites of conflict that reverberate in larger social movements. Second, understand human-animal relations not as carefree and casual but as carefully constructed and contested relations of knowledge and power.


UC Davis

Nature and Culture in America

Julie Sze

Animals in American Culture

Jay Mechling

This course explores the meanings we attribute to animals in our everyday lives. We experience real animals as our pets and in zoos, theme parks, circuses, rodeos, and as hunters. We eat animals (or don’t), drink their milk (or don’t), and wear their skins and fur (or don’t). We consume representations of animals in children’s stories, on television, in film, in print advertisements, in Gary Larson cartoons, and more. We look at these animal “texts” and their meanings toward understanding some larger questions in American culture, including questions about gender, sex, race, and the range of values at odds in “the Culture Wars.” We shall draw upon a number of disciplines (anthropology, folklore, geography, history, literary criticism, psychology, rhetorical criticism, sociology, and visual studies, among others) to understand the various meanings of these texts in their historical, social, and cultural contexts.


University of Michigan

Reading the Animal in Literature and Culture

Scott Lyons

The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss famously wrote, “animals are good to think with.” We instantly see the truth of that statement when considering the ubiquity of animals in culture – as symbols and metaphors, spirits and mascots, companions or competitors in the struggle to survive – but animals are not only to be thought with. They are to be lived with. This seminar will bridge the young, interdisciplinary field of animal studies with literary and cultural studies to produce a critical engagement with “lit critters” and the questions they raise regarding politics, ethics, knowledge, and issues of representation.



Bio-ethics and the Animal/Human Boundary

Megan H. Glick

In this course, we will explore the construction of the animal/human boundary through the lens of bioethics. We will define bioethics as the study of the ethical consideration of medical, scientific, and technological advances, and their effects on living beings. At the same time, we will pay close attention to the cultural contexts in which these advances emerge, imagining the realms of scientific progress and popular culture as mutually constitutive. We will consider topics such as cloning, organ transplantation, pharmaceutical testing, and gestational surrogacy, with a focus on the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. We will begin by interrogating how ideas of the “animal” and the “human” are constructed through biomedical and cultural discourses. We will ask: how is the human defined? By intelligence or consciousness levels? By physical capabilities or esoteric qualities? Similarly, how has the human been defined against ideas of the animal? Or, what ethical justifications have been cited in the use of animals in biomedicine? What makes certain species “proper” research subjects, and others not? What do these formulations tell us about our valuation of animal and human life, and what kinds of relationships exist between the two? In order to answer these questions, we will consult a wide range of interdisciplinary scholarship, from authors in the fields of Animal/ity Studies, bioethics and medicine/science history, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy. Students will also be exposed to the basics of biopolitical theory.


Western University

Joshua Schuster

American Animal Studies

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