Select Page

Photo courtesy of Stephen Salpukas/William & Mary

We are excited to announce the Keynote Lecture for the 2018 ASI-UIUC Summer Institute, to be held at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, on Sunday, July 8, 2018. The Lecture will be given by Barbara J. King, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, College of William and Mary.

Dealing with the ‘A’ Word: A Public Anthropologist’s Reflections on Anthropomorphism in Communicating the Science of Animal Grief

The concept of ‘animal emotion’ is hotly contested across disciplines, with the unit of analysis as variant as brain circuits in some cases and dynamic social relationships in others. Central to debates about nonhuman animal emotions is grief, a current hot topic of discussion. Using a rigorous yet open-ended definition of grief, scientists and other animal observers including sanctuary workers offer increasing evidence to support the conclusion that animals ranging from chimpanzees to cows and dogs to dolphins may express grief at the loss of a partner, friend, or relative. What is the current state of evidence in support of animal grief? What role does anthropomorphism play in studying and communicating about animal grief, that is, does anthropomorphism in this context become a tool of critical reflection, a critical charge to be refuted, or both? Of what academic and activist uses may it be to grapple with these issues? I will discuss these three questions, using my work in anthropology as a case study for discussing challenges in communicating about animal emotion to broad publics.

Dr. King is Emerita Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary and a freelance science writer. Her books include Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat (2017), How Animals Grieve (2013), Being with Animals (2010), Evolving God (2007), and The Dynamic Dance: Nonvocal Communication in African Great Apes (2004). Shared with her husband, Barbara’s cat-rescue work brings her happiness every day.

To see the schedule of public events for the Summer Institute, please click here!



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Unless otherwise noted, all content on this website is copyright © 2018 The Animals and Society Institute. Please visit to find out more about our reprint and use policies.

Share Us Online