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Minor Program in Animals and Society

Curricular materials created for the 2012 SAIL seminar:

Considering Animals in Washington, DC

In a recent article in the New York Times (January 2, 2012), James Gorman described animal studies as "the growing, but still undefined, field [which] ... includes 'anything that has to do with the way humans and animals interact.' Art, literature, sociology, anthropology, film, theater, philosophy, religion - there are animals in all of them." As Gorman notes, "Institutes, book series and conferences have proliferated. Formal academic programs have appeared." The Animals and Society Institute lists a number of undergraduate courses in animal studies, including fellow midwestern liberal arts colleges Albion, Augustana, Macalester, and Wittenburg, and at liberal arts colleges such as Hamilton, Wesleyan, and Williams, as well as at many highly prestigious universities, including Harvard. Wesleyan University runs a summer fellowship in animal studies in association with the ASI.

With a biology and humanities heavy path - consistent with the national trends in the discipline - we have decided to call our minor "Animals and Society," so as not to mislead students into thinking this is just a subset of biology. We know there is always concern among faculty about new programs' use of resources, and rightly so. But because the study of animals is already embedded in most of the traditional disciplines and many of our courses, and because we have designed the minor to rely on foci in regularly-offered courses, most of which do not regularly fill to bursting (we are particularly concerned about the biology courses), we are confident that the minor will not require any additional FTE.

Perhaps more importantly, however, we would argue that it is wrong for a good liberal arts college to overlook the study of non-human animals. Perhaps this is especially so today, when meat and pharmaceutical safety are headline issues, and the welfare of companion animals is a trillion-dollar set of industries. But we don't need to look to current events. Humans are drawn to non-human animals: we depend on them for our livelihood, we share the planet and each of its communities with them; we are fascinated by their beauty, intricacy, and efficiency. It's surprising that animal studies is only now becoming a popular field at colleges like ours.

*Note: Content adapted from Curricular Project.

Overview

Overview and Goals of "Animals and Society" Minor

Humans are drawn to non-human animals: we depend on them for our livelihood, we share the planet and each of its communities with them; we are fascinated by their beauty, intricacy, and efficiency. The minor in Animals and Society is widely interdisciplinary, and accords students great autonomy in their programs. In addition to its intrinsic interest, Animals and Society provides depth to applications to jobs and graduate and professional schools.

The goals of the Animals and Society minor are that students:

  • Identify and consider the experience of non-human animals as part of scholarship;
  • Identify and consider human-animal relationships in their lives and in the world around them;
  • Be versant in ethical, moral, political and legal concerns about animals; and
  • Gain understanding of the significance of animals in human evolution, history, culture, and civilization

Achievement of these goals is assessed by a review of the final assignments for the core courses in the minor.


Activities

Updated Mar 11, 2016

The Animal Studies Minor requires:

Seven Courses

Three Core Courses

ES 220: Evolution, Ecology, and Environment

The diversity of life - the result of evolutionary and ecological processes - is a primary focus of environmental studies. In order to understand humans' effects on other species, ecosystems, and evolutionary and ecological processes and interactions, a deep knowledge of those entities and processes is critical.

This course takes an interdisciplinary, theoretical approach to the evolution and ecology of human - environmental dynamics, including species concepts and speciation, extinction, conservation of biodiversity, political ecology, evolutionary ecology, the human dimensions of global change, demography, biogeography, human and non-human population ecology, and the status of evolutionary theory in the current political arena. Three lecture hours plus one four-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: ES 110 or permission of instructor.

PHIL 245: Phil of Humans and Animals Western

Philosophers since Aristotle - at least - have claimed that human beings, as a species and alone among species, are capable of complex reasoning. From that premise, they have inferred a wide range of ethical and religious claims, e.g., it is ethically permissible to eat non-human animals. Alternative claims, however, have just as long a history, and in the last twenty or so years there has been a boom in the study of non-human animals and the relationships between humans and non-human animals.

In this seminar, we will read and discuss an array of philosophical opinions on how animal species, human among them, do and ought to dwell together in the world. We'll discuss the practices of keeping pets, training animals to work or entertain, building and patronizing zoos, animal experimentation, animal worship, and others. Students will be responsible for presenting course material in seminar papers, plus a major term paper on a relevant topic of their choice.

ES 387: Who Speaks for Animals?

This course explores the aims, motives, and achievements of those who either intentionally or unintentionally speak for animals - scientists, natural historians, philosophers, animal trainers, legal scholars, veterinarians, conservationists, nature writers, and artists, among others. This course investigates the meaning of animals to humans, the meaning of humans to animals, and the meaning of animals to each other. These investigations raise questions about the nature of equality, reason, feeling, justice, language, the social contract, and sentimentality. Prerequisites: Politics 260, or any Environmental Studies or Philosophy course at the 200 level or above, or junior standing.

Plus four electives, at least one from each group (note that some of these courses have prerequisites):

Group A

  • BIOL 132: Bio Inquiry: Plant-Animal Interactions
  • BIOL 220: Ecology and Evolution [students taking this course may use it to replace the core course ES 220]
  • ES 215: Environmental Psychology • ES 287: Sustainable Food Systems
  • SOAN 248: Intro to Physical Anthropology
  • SOAN 271: Technology and Human Values

Group B

  • Any art or art history course at the 200- or 300-level, with focused work on the depiction of animals (with prior permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program)
  • ENGL 206: American Environmental Lit
  • ENGL 365: Poetry and Nature
  • Any writing course at the 200- or 300-level, with focused work on the depiction of animals (with prior permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program)
  • Any of the following courses in philosophy, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) PHIL 203: Business & Professional Ethics PHIL 205: Medical Ethics PHIL 210: Environmental Ethics PHIL 212: Multicultural Approaches Environment PHIL 225: Philosophy of Science PHIL 275: Desire and Discipline: Asian Morals PHIL 276: Social Justice and Human Rights PHIL 277: Social Justice vs. Freedom? PHIL 290: Western Philosophy: Ancient Greece PHIL 291: Western Philosophy: 17th & 18th C PHIL 292: Western Philosophy: Hegel & l9th C PHIL 296: Philosophy of Mind
  • Any of the following courses in religion, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) RELG 118: Religious Ethics RELG 210: Religions of Indigenous Peoples RELG 211: Judaism RELG 212: Christianity RELG 213: Islam RELG 214: Hinduism RELG 215: Introduction to Buddhism RELG 234: Witches, Preachers, and Mystics RELG 241: Religion & Science RELG 242: Cults, Sects, and Communes RELG 255: Islam and Modernity

Group C

  • BIOL 340: Animal Physiology
  • BIOL 344: Animal Behavior
  • BIOL 389: Evolution
  • ES 350: Marine and Island Ecology
  • ES 361: Environmental Law
  • ES 368: Endangered Species and Languages
  • NEUR/PSYC 370: Neuroscience and Behavior
  • Any of the following courses in psychology with focused work on the psychology of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) PSYC 310: Sensation and Perception PSYC 320: Learning and Memory PSYC 330: Motivation & Emotion PSYC 360: Cognitive Psychology
  • Any of the following courses in philosophy, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) PHIL 305: Comp Philosophy: East & West PHIL 325: Major Ethical Theories PHIL 352: Topics in Social Justice PHIL 360: Identity & Dreams
  • RELG 335: Religion and Food
  • Any of the following courses in religion, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) RELG 320: Topics In Comparative Religion RELG 321: Jewish-Christian-Muslim Conversations
  • The following course in sociology/anthropology, with focused work on the human interaction with non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) SOAN 316: Environmental Sociology

A tutorial in Animals and Society may be substituted for any but the core courses in the minor, with the permission of the instructor and the chair of the animal studies program.


Collaborating partner(s)
Janet McCracken
Professor of Philosophy, Lake Forest College
mccracken@lakeforest.edu
Glenn Adelson
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Lake Forest College
gadelson@lakeforest.edu
ACM Program Funding
SAIL
Award
-
Funding Cycle
2012-2013
Project Duration
Keywords
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