Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studiesby Aaron S. Gross
Human beings have long imagined their subjectivity, ethics, and ancestry with and through animals, yet not until the mid-twentieth century did contemporary thought reflect critically on animals’ significance in human self-conception. Thinkers such as French philosopher Jacques Derrida, South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, and American theorist Donna Haraway… See more details below
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Human beings have long imagined their subjectivity, ethics, and ancestry with and through animals, yet not until the mid-twentieth century did contemporary thought reflect critically on animals’ significance in human self-conception. Thinkers such as French philosopher Jacques Derrida, South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, and American theorist Donna Haraway have initiated rigorous inquiries into the question of the animal, now blossoming in a number of directions. It is no longer strange to say that if animals did not exist, we would have to invent them.This interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collection reflects the growth of animal studies as an independent field and the rise of animality” as a critical lens through which to analyze society and culture, on par with race and gender. Essays center on the role of animals in the human imagination and the imagination of the human, a discourse that has evolved in tandem with discussions of—and more robust concern for—animals in popular culture. They consider the worldviews of several indigenous peoples, animal-human mythology in early modern China, and political uses of the animal in postcolonial India. They engage with the theoretical underpinnings of the animal protection movement, representations of animals in children’s literature, the depiction of animals in contemporary art, and the philosophical positioning of the animal from Aristotle to Heidegger. The strength of this companion lies in its timeliness and contextual diversity, which makes it essential reading for students and researchers while further developing the parameters of the discipline.
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Meet the Author
Aaron S. Gross is a professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego and holds a MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He co-chairs the American Academy of Religion's Animals and Religion Group and has played a leading role in a wide variety of national and international animal-welfare campaigns since the mid-1990s. He founded the nonprofit group Farm Forward in 2007.
Anne Vallely is a professor of religious studies at the University of Ottawa. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and her research focuses on the anthropology of South Asian religiosity, especially that of Jainism, and on the symbolic construction of human/non-human boundaries across cultures. She is the author of Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of a Jain Acetic Community.
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of Eating Animals, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Everything is Illuminated, all international bestsellers.
Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and a member of the Committee on Social Thought. Her books include The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; Dreams, Illusions, and Other Realities; Other Peoples' Myths; The Cave of Echoes; and the English-language edition of Yves Bonnefoy's Mythologies.
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