Animal Studies Bibliography

Noske, Barbara. 1992. Deconstructing the animal image: Toward an anthropology of animals. Anthrozoos 5(4): 226-230.

Since the Scientific Revolution, our view of animals has been shaped by natural science, which perceives nature and animals as passive objects acted upon by active humans (scientists). This shift from understanding nature as a semidivine, intelligent life force (226) to a passive object was assisted by the Early modern European view of nature as an economically and technically useful mechanism and by the parsimony principle, which requires scientists to bring explanations to the most material and measurable level (226) possible. Parts of nature not amenable to such description are ignored or denied as the measurable becomes nature. Scientific attitudes toward animals work the same way--scientists ignore the whole animal and its subjectivity and focus only on what they can measure. These scientists are in essence modern-day Cartesians, though they would not go so far as Descartes in , for example, denying animals' capacity for pain. This view of animals as measurable machines is a false image in that it ignores animals' inner selves and the choices they make which cannot be explained by machine-logic. Darwin and modern biologists usually discuss animals as passive participants in the process of natural selection, such that any behavior they exhibit (sociality, etc.) is simply part of this process of them inadvertently (227) copying the desirable behaviors. This scientific approach cannot deal with such things as culture, codes actively created by the group and actively taught and learned by group members. Natural scientists thus make biologically deterministic explanations of behavior, discussing culture like a gene or organ. On the other hand, disciplines that study culture study only humans or study animals only as objects acted upon by humans (the human-animal bond, but not the animal-human one). These scholars ignore animals because they do not see animals as having culture, sociality, or other relevant feelings and actions, often seeing animal as the opposite of the important human traits, rather than recognizing animal-human continuity. This failure is understandable since the mechanistic focus of the natural sciences has created an image of animals as biologically controlled such that anyone who seeks to point out animal-human continuity is charged with biological determinism. Some modern biologists (Donald Griffin, Donna Haraway) have started to move beyond this limiting impasse to call for an anthropological approach to studying animals. Anthropology is the ideal discipline for such study, because it focuses on understanding the Other through participant observation, gaining intersubjectivity with reductionism. The discipline involves sharing the lives of the Other, developing empathy for the Other, and avoiding making judgments based on one's own cultural biases (normally, ethnocentrism; in this case, anthropocentrism). For now, however, the impasse remains, and there is much work to do to develop an anthropology of animals.



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