Animals and Society
Debi Reed Hill
This course is designed to introduce students to the broad new field of human-animal studies by focusing on three key areas. First, we consider non-human animals as thinking and feeling beings and actors, present in every important aspect of human life and society. In this analysis we employ ideas from symbolic interaction, supplemented by cognitive ethology and neuroscience in order to address questions about animals as persons and selves. Second, we consider various specific human institutions and their practices in relation to non-human animals. Third, we discuss the implications of all this for the rights of animals and for the ethical assessment of their treatment by human beings, reading a variety of perspectives, including sociological, zoological, legal, and philosophical sources.
DePaul University, School for New Learning
Externship: Animals in Contemporary Life
Students will pursue literature on the historical connections between animals and humans, and will review philosophies concerning treatment of animals. Students will also be exposed to current issues in animal welfare, including a volunteer experience in an animal shelter. Faculty will provide a framework for assessing the roles and condition of animals, particularly domestic animals, in our culture. Assigned readings range from Peter Singer’s noted work on animal experimentation Animal Liberation to excerpts from Black Elk Speaks, a Native American treatise on hierarchy and respect for life in American aboriginal culture. Students will pursue their own interests through further readings and commentary.
Illinois State University
Animals and Society
In this course, a sociological examination of the roles and statuses of non-human animals in society is provided. We will explore philosophical arguments supporting and opposing the principles of animal rights, and how these arguments differ from those in support of/opposition to the principles of animal protection/welfare. We will analyze various social movements and organizations concerned with animal rights and animal protection. We will investigate how and why some animals are defined as food, as research subjects, as sources of entertainment, as sources of clothing, and as companions. Finally, we will explore the connections between non-human animal oppression and exploitation and the oppression and exploitation of specific aggregates of human animals (particularly racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the poor).
Meadville Lombard School of Theology
Multispecies and Ecological Theology, Justice, and Ministry
“What does it mean to be human?” This question has, for thousands of years, expressed our yearning for self-understanding. The question has, however, made distinguishing humans from nonhuman animals a central project of religious, ethical, and philosophical inquiry. In pursuit of such a distinction, a wide range of traits have been suggested as belonging to all and only humans. As these suggestions have largely failed to withstand scrutiny, we have begun to learn that, “What does it mean to be animal?” is at least as important a question as, “What does it mean to be human?” Understanding ourselves requires grasping our commonality with other animals, not demarcating differences. Related essential questions include: How do we relate to other species as one animal among many? What ways of relating are possible? What is justice in the context of that relationship? And what is our self-interest? How do we make sense of the harm inherent in biotic community? How can possibly nonlinguistic voices be “brought to the table” (rather than placed on it), while also expanding our ability to listen to the voices of the human species and respond with justice for all? How is our, and their, and the biotic community’s well-being and flourishing realized through our attentive regard for other species? How can we as Unitarian Universalists provide leadership and ministry in innovative ways that meet the spiritual needs of our people in this time of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and extinction? How can Unitarian Universalists prepare for the vote at General Assembly 2017 where we are asked to change the First Principle to the “inherent worth and dignity of every being?” How can we facilitate the paradigm shift from separation and individualism to unity and interdependence? How can we take risks when so much is at risk? Instructors and participants together explore the many complex nuances of understanding and personally realizing the emerging “beloved multispecies community.”
Northern Illinois University
Mylan Engel, Jr.
This course seeks to determine whether and to what extent we have duties and obligations toward animals and the environment. Some questions to be addressed include: What is the value of nature? Is nature intrinsically valuable or merely of instrumental value? Do we have a duty to preserve the environment for future generations? If so, does this imply that we can have duties toward nonexistent beings (since future generations don’t exist yet)? What are the most effective steps we as individuals can take to help preserve the environment? Is global warming real? If so, what steps, if any, should we take to help curb global warming? Should governments be implementing policies which encourage the use of Low Input Sustainable Agriculture [LISA] techniques? Do Western environmental practices oppress humans in developing nations? Are patriarchal patterns of male dominance to blame for many of our current environmental problems? Do we have a duty to protect endangered plant and/or animal species? Is it worse to kill members of an endangered species than it is to kill members of abundant species, and if so, why? Are some ecosystems better and more worthy of preserving than others? What is the moral status of animals? Is it wrong to kill animals for fun? Is it worse to kill animals than it is to kill plants? Is it wrong to torture animals? Is it wrong to wear animals? Is vegetarianism morally obligatory for people living in modern societies? Is animal experimentation (ever?, always?) morally permissible? What is speciesism and is it morally wrong? What bearing, if any, does our current treatment of animals have on the environment? What duties, if any, do we as individuals have regarding the environment?
Contemporary Moral Issues
Mylan Engel, Jr.
The course seeks answers to some of the most controversial moral questions of our time: What is the nature of right and wrong? Who is to say what is right? Is capital punishment ever morally justified? Is abortion morally wrong? Can a just society allow individuals to starve in poverty while other individuals hoard billions of dollars? Do moderately affluent individuals have a duty to assist the poor? Is reverse discrimination morally wrong? Is euthanasia (mercy killing) morally permissible? Is suicide morally wrong? Is homosexuality immoral? Is premarital sex morally wrong? What is the moral status of animals? Is it O.K. to torture animals? Is it O.K. to kill animals for food? Is it O.K. to wear animals? Is it O.K. to experiment on animals? Do we have a duty to protect the environment for future generations? If so, what are the most effective things we, as individuals, can do to help preserve the environment?
Animals & Society
Why do we swoon over cuddly puppies at the pet store but salivate over hot dogs at a baseball game? Why are cows worshipped in India and yet raised in often horrific conditions for their meat, milk, and skin in the United States? Should animals have legal rights or do they exist purely to serve us? These are some of the questions we will grapple with in this class. Non-human animals figure prominently in our daily lives – in our families, our jobs, our food, our entertainment. Yet we human animals rarely consider the role animals play in society or our attitudes toward them. The study of human-animal interaction has been a relatively recent development in the field of sociology, but the study of animals in society offers valuable sociological insight into who we are as human beings. In this course, we will apply sociological theories and concepts to the various roles that animals play in society, as well as examine the nature of the human-animal bond, with a particular focus on the connection between animal abuse and human violence.
From Love-Gifts to Beasts: Animals in Antiquity
Protagonists of myths, endearing pets and love tokens, objects of the hunt, and bridges to the unknown future and the remote gods: animals have played the most versatile and diverse roles in Antiquity. Animals are symbols of heroism for Homer, vehicles of economic stability in Hesiod, creatures of a mythical time for Plato, and political beings akin to humans in Aristotle. This course explores the rich literature about animals in the Greek and Roman world, focusing on the relationship between men and animals and how it developed over time. This course not only addresses how the ancients conceived of the life, identity and function of animals, but it also shows how their notion of the animal ultimately reflected their conception of the human.
The Human Animal Relationship in Historical Perspective
This course will examine the problems and possibilities of studying the human-animal relationship in historical perspective. Building on recent scholarship, we will consider how animals have served as symbols in human culture, as raw material for human industry, and as companions in human lives.
Environmental Policy and Culture
Special Topics in Environmental Policy and Culture
Seth B Magle
University of Chicago
The Animal: Theories of Nonhuman Life
In recent years, a host of thinkers from a range of different disciplines have taken up the question of “the animal,” giving rise to what some have labeled an emerging field of animal studies. In this course, we will read some of the major theoretical texts associated with this turn toward the animal, and consider the challenge that thinking about animals has posed to questions about justice, obligation, subjectivity, and community. We will explore these and related questions through the close reading of a selection of texts from a variety of philosophical and theoretical traditions, likely including Peter Singer, Thomas Regan, Cora Diamond, Christine Korsgaard, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Emmanuel Levinas, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Donna Haraway, Temple Grandin, J. M. Coetzee, and others. As we proceed, we will ask what it means to consider these very diverse thinkers together; we will also be alert to the way that questions about animality intersect or depart from what might be related questions of the posthuman or the biopolitical.
Modernism and Animality
This course examines how modernist writing questions the boundary between the human and the animal. We begin by investigating the historical countercurrents represented by Descartes and Montaigne, contrasting Descartes’s notion of the animal-machine to Montaigne’s “theriophilic” defense of animals. Then we consider how Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud transformed the terms of this debate in the modern period. For most of the quarter we focus on modernist fiction and poetry, read in conversation with theoretical works on animals and animality. On the literary side we study such authors as Kafka, Rilke, H.G. Wells, Marianne Moore, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Jack London, George Orwell, and Virginia Woolf; on the theoretical side we look at Berger, Derrida, Agamben, Haraway, Margot Norris, and Deleuze/Guattari, along with key figures in the animal rights debate such as Peter Singer and Tom Regan. There will also be opportunities to work on changing conceptions of the animal as represented in the visual arts, including film.
Romance Languages and Literature
Reading Nonhuman Animals: A Challenge to Anthropomorphism
How can we “read” a literary nonhuman animal? In what ways does literature deal with ethical and political issues concerning nonhuman animals? What does it mean to live in a multicultural and multispecies world? What does it mean to be “human”? In this course we will ask these and other related questions as they are presented and represented in Italian 20th century literary texts, read alongside philosophical writings, scholarly essays, and visual materials. While maintaining a focus on Italian literature, a comparative approach involving literary works of non-Italian authors will be key in understanding the pervasiveness of the problems that have caused our detachment from nature and our broken relationship with nonhuman animals. We will closely analyze and critically evaluate the works of several authors, including those by Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, Anna Maria Ortese, Elsa Morante, Italo Svevo, Alice Walker, and Franz Kafka, giving particular attention to techniques of close reading. A thematic approach will enable us to explore a large number of critical discourses, from the moral status of nonhuman animals to the long-held assumptions regarding the anthropocentric set of values that have defined (Western) culture. We will also take into consideration different theoretical frameworks such as posthumanist theory and gender studies in order to discuss and evaluate the selected texts from different perspectives and entry points.
University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign
Companion Animals in Society
Explores the current and historical functions and influences of companion animals in American society. Topics include the evolution of animal protection, the use of assistance and service animals, and the growth of the pet supply industry. Controversial issues which are of current concern to society will also be examined.
Explores the relationships between humans and companion animals and the roles and functions that animals play in today’s society. Examines the evolution of the human/companion animal bond, benefits and disadvantages of this bond, and working/nonworking roles of companion animals. Controversial issues which are of current concern to society will be examined in detail. Writing and in-class discussions are emphasized.
Seminar: Dangerous Dogs and Breed Discrimination
Dangerous dogs are a common concern of both the general public and politicians. In this course, we will be looking at the history of dangerous dogs in this country, the societal factors that create the image of certain breeds being more aggressive than others, and the impacts these images have on dogs and their owners.
Seminar: Advanced Rescue and Outreach
This course has been developed as a way for you to discover the ways in which rescue groups operate differently than traditional shelters, and to explore outreach events in our community.
Companion Animal Policy
This course provides an overview of public policy with respect to the use and treatment of companion animals in the United States. Current and alternative policies are considered in terms of their effectiveness in improving or otherwise altering the treatment of companion animals. The influences of animal protection organizations, consumer groups, politicians, the scientific community, and other stakeholders on the development and enforcement of policies are examined in detail.
The Culture of Nature
Ideas of “the natural” and “the cultural” underpin many of our beliefs, laws, and social practices. This course examines the relationship between these two mutually-defining concepts with an emphasis on the construction of notions of a “natural world.” We will see how this concept has varied over time and among different social groups .Emphasis will be on cultural groups and practices within the U.S. but students will be encouraged to relate these issues to their work on other parts of the world as appropriate. Topics will include the idea of “landscape” and of “nature” as a resource to be used, appreciated, articulated, or enjoyed. In addition, at least half of the course will be devoted to analyzing our relationships to animals including the use of animals for entertainment, food, sports, science and education, and in the arts, and in the law. We will discuss the rise of zoos, the American humane movement, contentious debates about factory farming and animal rights, and the ubiquitous family pet. Films, local field trips or guest speakers, and activities will supplement in-class discussion and assigned readings. This course is especially useful for students in anthropology, but will also benefit students interested in ecology, environmental studies, cultural geography, public leisure, farming, animal sciences, and cultural studies approaches to literary representation, art, and social history.
Knowing Animals: Histories, Strategies and Frontiers in Human/Animal Relations
Western Illinois University
Patricia K. Anderson
This course examines the symbolic, economic, ecological, and social consequences of human-animal interaction in a variety of cross-cultural contexts, ranging from small-scale (nonindustrial) societies to the modern industrial world. A global perspective is used to help students better understand world trends regarding modernization and its consequences to animals and their habitats. This course provides a cross-cultural understanding of the concept of animal by examining how our relationship with animals is mediated by culture, and thus how belief systems contribute to current animal and environmental-related social problems. Key topics include domestication and neotenization, the use of animals in entertainment and food production, companion animals, invasive species, and the connection between violence against animals and humans.