Animal Studies

Authored by: Joan Gordon

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

Print publication date:  January  2009
Online publication date:  March  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415453783
eBook ISBN: 9780203871317
Adobe ISBN: 9781135228361


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Animal studies are scientific experiments using animal subjects to demonstrate hypotheses, but animal studies is also a growing field that uses the interdisciplinary range of cultural studies to examine the relationship between human beings and other animals; the latter is the kind of animal studies with which this chapter is concerned. Among many other things, this kind of animal studies questions the ethical complexities of the other kind of animal studies. Indeed, ethical concerns about our treatment and use of animals form an important strand of animal studies and are part of the long tradition of philosophical and religious consideration of human and animal. Other strands, with connections to the social sciences, consider the extent to which humans and animals are related evolutionarily (using the field of evolutionary development) or psychologically (using evolutionary psychology), or they consider the implications of animal behavior (ethology), animal psychology, and even animal culture: these strands might be grouped under the heading of sociobiology, a field established by E.O. Wilson. Further strands explore the nature of consciousness to consider the human/animal interface, the impact of the environment on human/animal interaction, and the varying attitudes in different human cultures toward animals. Feminist thought has become increasingly imbricated with animal studies. In all cases, animal studies problematizes the clear division between human and other animals, and probes the cultural implications of either making or erasing that division. It can be used to examine every kind of cultural product, from art, drama, film, and television to theme parks, political campaigns, and clothing design.

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