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The History of Human-Animal Relations (August 2017): Conclusion

By J. Wendel Cox


This essay has examined a large and growing literature on the history of human-animal relations. At the same time, it has confined itself to a relatively discrete period of time and place. The sweep of the so-called animal turn and the scholarship suitable for college libraries might best be addressed through a series of such essays, perhaps likewise chronologically and geographically defined (e.g., animals and contemporary Indigenous societies, or human-animal relations in antiquity), or defined by a particular disciplinary interest (e.g., animals and moral philosophy). One larger theme salient for those interested in a holistic view is a widespread interest especially within literary studies, but also manifest in history, philosophy, and religious studies, to challenge the anthropocentric predicates, presumptions, and perspectives of the humanities themselves. Just as examinations of technology and its cultural consequences have led scholars to consider the nature and limits of the human, so, too, the literature of human-animal relations has repeatedly questioned the dichotomy and dualism implied in the study of the humanities and its tendentious treatments of the animal and animal others. Some scholars feel we are witness to a rise of posthumanism, a novel perspective widely discussed, but perhaps nowhere more ably addressed than in Cary Wolfe’s What is Posthumanism? and the related “Posthumanities” series titles from the University of Minnesota Press. Perhaps we have arrived at a moment in a long history of humanity’s self-reflection in which we finally situate ourselves alongside our fellow species.

Works Cited