ASI and the Animals & Society section of the American Sociological Association co-sponsor this series which is dedicated to highlighting research by emerging human-animal relationship scholars. This series also features publication workshops, job talks, and research by established scholars in the field. These events are part of the Animals and Society 2021-2024 Colloquium series. Co-sponsored by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Animals and Society and the Animals & Society Institute.

April 2024

In this panel discussion, panelists discuss their undergraduate Animals and Society and Human-Animal Studies classes. They discuss their course structure, learning objectives, challenges, and successes in teaching these courses. Their presentations are followed by a Q&A and an interactive discussion with the audience.

Panelists: Panelists represent a variety of institutional types and classroom sizes and settings.

Liz Cherry, Professor, Division of Social Science and Communication at Manhattanville College
Margo DeMello, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthrozoology at Carroll College
Seven Mattes, Assistant Professor, Center for Integrative Studies at Michigan State University

Teaching Undergraduate Animals and Society Courses in the Social Sciences: A Panel Discussion

In addition to the resources discussed in the video, there was also a lively exchange of resources in the chat. This document contains a list of those resources.

March 2024

Speaker Bio: Romanian–Palestinian researcher, lecturer, activist, and multimedia artist working on environmental harms, nonhuman rights, violent conflicts, state crimes, and colonial legacies. I’m an independent scholar, convener of the Ecocide/Speciesism symposium, and regional co-director at the World Moot on International Law and Animal Rights. Formerly I was Asst. Professor of Peace Studies at Kennesaw State University and Visiting Scholar at the Emory University School of Law. My recent research is published in the Journal of Peace Psychology, State Crime Journal, Journal of Environmental Law, Global Journal of Animal Law and in edited books by Palgrave, Routledge and Brill, and my creative work appears in literature/arts magazines, festivals and exhibitions. Over the past seventeen years I’ve also been involved in many civic projects on human and nonhuman rights.

Event Description: In this talk, Rimona Afana discusses how typical and atypical forms of captivity harm nonhuman animals, how captivity has been challenged legally and civically, and how expanding our cultural and legal definitions of torture and genocide can help eradicate captivity.

Captivity defines the lives of billions of nonhuman animals. Across sectors like food, clothing, medicine, or entertainment, the torture and murder of animals relies on their confinement. Captivity is a core feature of genocidal and ecocidal sectors such as animal farming and wildlife trade, which remain legal. Sentient beings suffer physically and psychologically from captivity; their need for freedom, autonomy and bodily integrity collides with our “right” to (ab)use them. Yet, gray areas remain on what constitutes captivity: are companion animals kept in homes or rescued animals placed in shelters and sanctuaries also experiencing captivity, albeit a well-meaning form?

Captivity is often a form of state and/or corporate crime; states and companies profit from trapping their victims. For both humans and nonhumans, captivity is part of a continuum of torturous practices crushing their body and spirit; understanding these similarities can create inter-species compassion and solidarity. Nonhuman captivity has been challenged through habeas corpus cases, open and clandestine rescue, legislative initiatives, advocacy, research, and other approaches. Some have succeeded and many have failed. I’ll be discussing: how typical and atypical forms of captivity harm nonhumans; how captivity has been challenged legally and civically; how expanding our cultural and legal definitions of torture and genocide can help eradicate captivity.

Challenging Captivity: Legal and Civic Strategies for Liberating Confined Nonhumans

February 2024

Dr. Cameron T. Whitley, Associate Professor, Western Washington University

Kaitlin Barrailler, Student, Western Washington University

Description: Sea stars, corals and jellies are some of the most important creatures keeping ecological balance in marine environments. We refer to these animals and other similar creatures, as marine animals without faces (MAWFs). How these animals are depicted has direct implications for conservation efforts. In this study, we assess the depiction of sea stars, coral and jellies on all AZA accredited zoo and aquarium websites. Findings revealed that these creatures are often profiled with scientific facts, as beautiful in groups, as beautiful backdrops or habitats for more charismatic creatures, horrific, grotesque, brainless, otherworldly and strange, or as touch and entertainment tools. None of these depictions serve to foster empathy for MAWFs or conservation efforts. The presence of these things may enhance psychological social distancing. We suggest that zoos and aquariums as well as other conservation organizations look at how they are or not depicting MAWFs and if these depictions align with the mission of the organization. We also suggest that more research is needed to determine how to best depict MAWFs to enhance engagement and promote conservation.

Brainless Beauties: Assessing How Zoos and Aquariums Depict Marine Animals without Faces

December 2023

Yana Kuchirko, Ph.D. (she/her), Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

Antonella Guadagnino, Graduate Student, Department of Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center

Description: Human-animal relationships are socially located and intertwine with social structures. In our research, we are interested in how non-human animal companions in mixed-species households interact with the structure and discourses of childhood. Our particular focus is Western childhood, in which children are construed as innocent, naive, vulnerable, and in need of protection from topics and experiences that will catapult them out of childhood bliss and into adulthood angst. Non-human animal companions in mixed-species households may interact with and disrupt parents’ ability to protect childhood innocence. In this talk, we present our in-progress research using semi-structured interviews with U.S.-based parents of children ages 3-7 and their non-human animal companions. We hope to utilize the Q & A portion of the talk to workshop with the audience ways to utilize human-animal studies perspectives to illuminate and further explore or findings.

In the Innocence Bubble: How Non Human Animal Companions Intersect with Childhood Innocence

October 2023

In this presentation, Tiamat Warda offers an introduction to emotional labor as a central labor process done by guide dogs and the humans who educate them. Aligning with the existing concept of humane work, Tiamat unpacks what factors can impact how humane an emotional labor practice is for a worker of either species. While referring to a specific case study, this presentation’s conclusions have implications for interpersonal animal work more broadly.

Speaker: Tiamat Warda, University of Exeter, EASE Working Group
Tiamat Warda has a professional background as a guide dog instructor (GDMI) of six years, a certified Canine Behaviour Consultant through the IHK, and an assistance dog team exam supervisor. Following her MA in anthrozoology from the University of Exeter, Tiamat is completing her PhD in the same programme, defining humane interspecies emotional labour. Her research interests are at the intersection of animal labour and emotion management.

The Role of Emotional Labour in Humane Interspecies Work

September 2023

In this talk, Caitlin Scarano discusses her manuscript of poems about animals brought to Antarctica. Drawing on her time on the Ice, archival research, and poetic techniques, Scarano explores the consequences of Antarctica exploration on nonhuman beings and the landscape.

Speaker: Dr. Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds a PhD and an MFA in poetry. Her second full length collection of poems, The Necessity of Wildfire, was selected by Ada Limón as the winner of the Wren Poetry Prize and won a 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Award. Caitlin is a member of the Washington Wolf Advisory Group. She spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Using Poetry to Learn from the Animals We Brought to Antarctica

May 2023

Dr. Irina Frasin, “Gh. Zane” Institute of Social and Economic Research, Romanian Academy, Iasi Branch

Romania has a large population of free roaming cats. This presentation provides a framework for understanding how to be there for these feline friends. Dr. Frasin suggests that by simply observing and learning more about the way cats live when they are less influenced by humans, will allow us to challenge some of the very popular conceptions about them. Treating cats as subjects, partners and co-workers, promotes the idea that we share the city with other intelligent and sentient living beings that have just as much place there as humans; it also allows us to find creative ways to co-exist.

Dr. Irina Frasin is a researcher in the Institute of Social and Economic Research, Romanian Academy, Iasi Branch, with a background in philosophy and history. Dr. Frasin taught Greek philosophy for about a decade. She now focuses her research on anthrozoology, moving from intercultural communication to inter-species communication. Dr. Frasin is co-editor of the series of books Anthrozoology Studies

Co-existence with community cats

April 2023

Issy Clarke

Issy Clarke is not an academic but, unexpectedly, a sports broadcaster who has worked primarily in soccer for the past 30 years! However, she grew up in the country on a small holding and has always counted various non-humans among her closest friends. She started a Masters programme in Ethics in 2020 but found the course material too human-focused, and so she left the course and has been working on her dissertation idea as an independent scholar. Isabella volunteers for the Wildlife Trust in the UK and has made films to promote Paws Rescue Qatar.

Animal Cultures: A paradigm for determining what matters to animals

March 2023

Lindsay Palmer, PhD

In this talk, Dr. Palmer discusses the relationship between attitudes toward animals, adherence to dog-training methods, and gender ideologies. Dr. Palmer discusses how the endorsement of male role norms predict the willingness to use aversive training methods, empathy towards companion animals, and beliefs in human supremacy. 

Kicking the Dog: The endorsement of hegemonic masculinity predicts the endorsement of aversive training methods

February 2023

Speaker: Dr. Sarah May Lindsay, Department of Sociology, McMaster University At the intersection of species, ability, and trauma are nonhuman caregivers (carers).

In this talk, I explore the contribution of “service”, “emotional support”, and companion animals to the well-being of people in emergency housing, specifically intimate partner violence (IPV) shelters. Through interviews with shelter workers, we find that only certain nonhuman animals and disabled humans are accommodated by IPV shelters. Through a joint critical animal and disability studies lens, we observe a hierarchy of disability as well as species, where certain nonhuman animals and abilities are accommodated in these shelters and others are not. We also find complex and sometimes contradictory opinions about the place of companion, “emotional support”, and “service” animals in residential care settings, including muddling of these “types” by some workers, and the presence and work of nonhuman carers. This work foregrounds the well-being of nonhuman carers, disrupts the division between “type” of animal and disability, and problematizes shelters in their current form. This work adds to what is known about nonhuman carers in social housing settings and is useful for those working in social work and public policy, particularly with multispecies families, trauma survivors, and clients with disabilities.

Service Support or Companion Species Ability and Care in Intimate Partner Violence Shelters

October 2022

Dr. Gala Argent, Human-Animal Studies Program Director, Animals & Society Institute; Faculty in Animal Studies at Eastern Kentucky University & Dr. Jeannette Vaught, Lecturer at California State University, Los Angeles

How can we better include animal others’—specifically, horses—perspectives in both academic studies and our dealings with them? In this colloquium, editors Gala Argent and Jeannette Vaught will discuss how their new book, The Relational Horse: How Frameworks of Communication, Care, Politics and Power Reveal and Conceal Equine Selves, applies the Human-Animal Studies tenet of presenting other animals’ interests and lived experience to the study of multiple forms of human-equine relationships. They explore how their own backgrounds as “horse people” and how their own evolving relationships with horses informed their vision for the book. They point out possible ways forward where horses’ voices are present, attuned to, and included in both human-equine scholarship and human-horse relationships.

The Relational Horse: Including Animal Others’ Perspectives in Our Relationships and Studies

April 2022

Thomas Aiello

This colloquium will examine publishing opportunities in human-animal studies using as an exemplary case study an analysis of the history and criticism of Pornocrates, a late-nineteenth century painting by Belgian artist Félicien Rops, in relation to interpretations of human-animal difference. In a relatively young discipline like human-animal studies, publishing opportunities for scholarly research can often seem limited by the available venues emphasizing those animals. Those opportunities, however, are continually growing, and opportunities also exist in avenues outside those that make nonhuman animals their specific focus. The benefit of our discipline is that describing the lived realities of animals within a constructed human social context not only furthers our understanding of animals themselves but also proves revelatory to those who place the bulk of their own research on human-specific concerns, showing them holes in their thinking about the interconnectedness of living beings on the globe.

Publishing Workshop

March 2022

Melissa Jacobi and Jenny R. Vermilya

This project is a collaboration between an artist and an animal studies academic. Together they critically explore the historical uses of anthropomorphism in classic children’s literature and propose a framework for illustrators who still wish to use nonhuman animal subjects in their storytelling, and who additionally answer to the popular demand for animal-inspired art. Our proposal uses critiques of the harmful impact of anthropomorphism and attempts to suggest ways to be more responsible in cultural representations of animals. The aim of this talk is to present an interdisciplinary analysis of art, culture, ethology, and ecology that uses a symbolic interactionist lens to ask where might children’s picture books go from here (and why they might want to).

Responsible Anthropomorphism in Children’s Picture Books

February 2022

Valerie Berset, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia.

To address biodiversity loss, artificial breeding programs produce and release animals into the natural environment. The biggest question underlying these programs is whether artificially produced animals can be understood and made sufficiently “wild.” In this talk, Berseth draws on interviews with salmon producers working at hatcheries in British Columbia, Canada to examine: (1) how hatchery staff and managers define wildness; and (2) the institutional practices that hatcheries use to produce salmon that are as close to wild as possible. While wildness has conventionally been understood as nature outside of humans, artificially bred salmon provide an opportunity to understand how humans wrestle with what it means for something to be “wild,” when and how to intervene in animal lives, and the implications of doing so.

The Meaning of “Wildness” in Artificial Breeding Programs

October 2021

Katja M. Guenther, PhD, Professor of Gender & Sexuality Studies, UC Riverside, author of The Lives and Deaths of Shelter Animals and Kristen Hassen, MA, Maddie’s® Director of American Pets Alive!

Do we need animal shelters? Are animal shelters the best way to help protect companion animals? What other ways can we envision bringing compassion and care to unhoused companion animals and their communities? After completing research and writing a book on shelter animals and with years of experience helping animals in shelters, Katja Guenther and Kristen Hassen, respectively, have been asking these questions. Together, they have a new vision of caring for unhoused animals and their communities. Join us for this colloquium to learn about their vision and help provide them feedback as they develop a talk to present their ideas to shelters and other animal protection communities. This colloquium is free to attend and open to the public.

Revolutionizing Animals Shelters

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