Animal Studies Bibliography

Cerulo, Karen A. 2009. Nonhumans in Social Interaction. Annual Review of Sociology 35:531–52.
(Summarized by Molly Tamulevich, Animal Studies Program, Michigan State University)

Nonhumans have systematically been eliminated from academic discourse regarding interaction, providing a framework within which they can become players in interaction, and providing evidence that humans already view nonhumans as essential actors in interactions.

                Historically, it has been argued that due to their lack of purpose, language, and consciousness, animals are unable to participate in interactions. Because of this, most scholars have focused their work exclusively on interactions between humans. Weber argues that nonhumans are not conscious, and therefore unable to participate in social interactions. His definition of consciousness excludes many humans, including those who are asleep or in a state of euphoria. According to Goffman, nonhumans are cognitive constructs and that interacting with them only serves to further the notion of the human's personhood by reflecting them back.

                The Actor-Network Theory, defined as a theory that “maps the social relations between people, objects and ideas, treating all as agentic entities that form a broad network” attempts to broaden the idea of social networks by proving that the social “consists of patterned networks of heterogeneous materials called actants. An actant is an independent entity that can acquire the ability to make things happen. Anything that causes action can be an actant: a doorbell, a memory, an animal, a human.  Actants can be both subject and object and change roles within a network. For example, an addict both uses the object to further their addiction and “becomes seized” by it, being both a tool of the addictive substance and the consumer of the addictive substance.

                It was originally postulated that humans could project mind onto nonhumans, essentially saying that by pretending they had human faculties, nonhumans could enter into interactions. It is now believed that nonhumans are “doing mind” independently. Humans must “ presume the mutuality of nonhumans”. ANT does not require that all members of a network communicate symbolically with one another, only assume that the ability to communicate exists.

                Non-human actants do not simply involve nonhuman animals. In ANT, past selves, future selves, memories, and thoughts are all equally capable of producing action and therefore become entities within a network. The notion of Life space, ” a psychological field that serves asthe center of an individual's needs and experiences.Life space includes the concrete aspectsof one's environment; but more importantly, itincludes the subjective meanings attached tothose concrete elements. Life space also includesimagined elements that derive from one's experience with the concrete—elements such as daydreams, wishful thinking, hallucinations,fantasy, and, most importantly, individuals' past and future time perspectives.” In studies of addicts and homeless populations, the people who could clearly envision a future version of themselves were more likely to enroll in school or quit using than those who viewed their past, present and future selves as one entity.

                Studies have shown that humans already interact with nonhumans in ways that shape social networks. They spend billions of dollars on pet food, interact with avatars online and communicate with spiritual beings in ways that shape their lives in the present moment. ANT accounts for interactions between ghosts, gods and robots. The mind is a powerful tool that shapes interactions, and it is argued that “ nonhumans play a more prominent, more active role in social interactions than previously acknowledged. Thus, nonhumans deserve a more central place in our analytic frame.” ANT does this by “prioritizing action over mind.”


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