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Seminar Overview

Considering Animals in Washington, DC

On site July 8-18, 2012

Cross-Disciplinary Approaches

Investigating the meanings of animal-human relationships raises a host of broad and compelling questions and draws on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.

Billie Holiday with her dog, Mister.

William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress. Flickr Commons.

  • The topic is grounded in ecology and biology: Homo sapiens have evolved from relatively animalistic beginnings to become more fully human, in part because of the range of both positive and negative interactions with animals.
  • Works of literature and art, from The Iliad to Guernica, reveal new layers of meaning when the focus shifts to how they produce or deconstruct "animalness." And animals as literary symbols, such as Keats’ nightingale, reinforce the tie between humans and animals while helping to build new, imaginative connections.
  • From the perspectives of history and political science, human-animal interactions have been significant factors in social life and political development; animal management, from the military use of animal power to the preservation of endangered species, continues to be a complex and dynamic area of public policy.
  • The nature of human obligations to animals is a hot-button issue in philosophy and has recently been brought into the public consciousness by the Michael Vick dog-fighting case.

Resources in the DC Area

The nation’s capital and its environs are home to a striking confluence of places and resources related to animals, many of which will be visited and utilized during the seminar.

Ostrich reading newspaper of caretaker.

National Archive of the Netherlands. Flickr Commons.