Animal Studies Bibliography

Ritvo, Harriet. 1995. Border Trouble: Shifting the Line between People and Other Animals. Social Research 62(3): 481-499.

Ritvo starts off her article stating that there is not much doubt that human beingsare different from non-human animals, however, she then goes on to argue that what is far from generally obviousis the kind and degree of the difference between human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom (p. 481). Ritvo discusses the history of ideas about the human animal divide, starting off with Christian ideas that being human is being closer to God. She talks about the desire to understate or to deny altogether the connection between people and other animals, but asserts that scientists have slowly come to think that humans and non-human animals are more closely connected than past thinkers maintained (p. 483). She examines the work of scientists such as Linnaeus and Darwin, who categorized primates as being very close to humans.

Ritvo then talks about the fact that this kind of thinking has been refuted because many other people find it problematic to consider themselves as the third chimpanzee' or as any other kind of ape at all, and a relatively restrained formulation like people and other animals' can also seem startling, even provocative (p. 487). She gives evidence of opposition to these scientists' thinking, such as resistance to the teaching of evolutionary theory in the public schools, and the work of other scientists who tried to classify humans and animals in a more hierarchical, divided fashion (p. 488). Ritvo states that despite the evidence of human similarity to chimpanzees evidence that should, according to some scientists, not only make people one among several kinds of apes but put them squarely within the genus Pan , along with common chimpanzees and bonobos most textbook taxonomical accounts construct a much greater distance (p. 490).

Ritvo then argues that although experts have tried to deny such a close connection between humans and animals, the public has not always agreed with them. She claims that many experts have been persistently guided in their interpretation of the structure of the natural world by their sense of human uniqueness and dignity and that the connection between human worth and human uniqueness does not seem to have been universally acknowledged (p. 491). She discusses people who have been delighted to find a missing link between humans and animals (such as Mermaids), and those who have been enchanted by the idea of a cross-species hybrid (such as a woman having an ape's baby).

Ritvo also addresses the attempts that have been made to humanize apes in captivity, such as teaching them to drink out of cups, smoke, and talk (sign language). Since primates can easily be taught to act like humans, while other animals cannot, they are afforded certain privileges that other animals do not have. Ritvo asserts that the more distant from human beings other animals seem, the less obligation or inclination people feel to recognize claims that may interfere with their needs, their interests, or even their convenience (pp. 495-496). Ritvo then goes on to tie this speciesism with racism, claiming that the chain of being metaphor implies that marked categories of people not only metaphorically resemble animals but actually approach them more closely than they do other humans (p 497).



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