Name of Book: Animal Encounters: Human-Animal Studies
Editor: Tom Tyler and Manuela Rossini
Publisher: Brill NV, Leiden, the Netherlands, 2009
The editor of this book, Tom Tyler, is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Culture at Oxford Brookes University, UK. He has published widely on animals in philosophy and critical theory. Manuela S. Rossini is a Project Manager at td-net (Network for Transdisciplinary Research) of the Swiss Academies. She has published her books about Early Modern Studies, Gender Studies and Science & Literature Studies.
Other contributors include in this book are Carol J. Adams, Steve Baker, Monika Bakke, Pamela Banting, Jonathan Burt, Donna Haraway, Randy Malamud, Laurie Shannon, Robyn Smith and Susan Squier.
In general, there are six encounters within this book, each of which represents a key arena of agonistic engagement that has attracted researchers within Animal Studies. Using various academic background, the essays in this book refer to the approaches that comes from literary and cultural studies, sociology and anthropology, eco-criticism and environmental studies, art history and aesthetics, gender studies and feminism, philosophy and critical theory, science and technology studies, history and post humanism. On the other hand, the essays that comprise this volume meet in a series of encounters not only between humans and animals, but also between distinct ethical positions, disciplinary methods and theoretical approaches. They seek neither concord nor dispute, but effective interchange. The following are the breakdown of each part.
POTENTIAL ENCOUNTERS. It addresses the nature of the encounters that are possible between humans and other animals. The authors consider the potential that exists for understanding and comprehending more-than-human creatures. Due to the necessarily anthropocentric modes of perception and awareness that we bring to any encounter, it has often been said that the worlds of other animals are forever closed to human beings. The authors of these two essays argue, on the contrary, that this perspective assumes and imposes a limitation that need not be the case. We should not begin from the proposition that other creatures are closed to us, or that the processes of comprehension and signification we employ are exclusively human.
MEDIATE ENCOUNTERS. The consequences of the encounters between humans and animals are not immediate but rather mediated. Animals are rarely presented to individuals but are instead represented, for instance in television programs and movies, in art and design, in radio broadcasts and so on, and in countless other media. At the same time, the animals that people do encounter in the flesh are frequently unrecognized as animals, having been slaughtered, processed, and renamed as ‘veal’ or ‘pork’ or ‘beef ’, that is as ‘meat’. With this fact, the authors of the two essays in this section come into an agreement that the consequence of these different forms of mediation, both contemporary mass media and language, is a distancing of humans from other animals. This estrangement makes it all easier for humans to dominate, subject and mistreat individual animals and indeed entire species.
EXPERIMENTAL ENCOUNTERS. Both essays in this section complicate a normative account of animals in experimental laboratories as simply being objects or passive victims acted upon by a more or less detached scientist (ab)using his or her nonhuman ‘other’. Researchers and writers within Animal Studies have had to involve with the conceptual, practical, and above all the ethical questions raised by these Experimental Encounters. This section also discusses the experiments where human and nonhuman animals, as well as machines, are woven together in an instrumental economy in which ‘we’ live in and through the use of one another’s bodies.
CORPOREAL ENCOUNTERS. This section attempts to investigate material and operational entanglements between human and nonhuman animals in early modernity and modernity, In other words, the two essays in this section contribute stories and histories of embodiment and intercorporeality that together provide an ‘organic’—rather than technology-driven—genealogy of how we became post human. Moreover, the explicitly historical approach pursued by both scholars brings to the fore (put forward) what in the history of science from the Enlightenment onwards—anatomy and primatologist. These two points in the case of their fields of investigation—has remained largely invisible, to wit, the relevance of animals in scientific (r)evolutions. We are also witness to the enormous efforts undertaken to efface the dependence on animal bodies in order to produce and maintain a bordered humanity.
DOMESTIC ENCOUNTERS. In all its many forms, human culture has developed and often depended on the taming of wild animals. The essays in this section discuss encounters with animal species that have been domesticated. Animals that have been drawn into human society, and brought under direct human control, provide diverse products and services. The essays that comprise this section concern on two of the most numerous and yet rarely encountered creatures in contemporary western culture. The first focuses on what we can learn from domestic encounters, the second on the lack of knowledge they signal.
LIBIDINAL ENCOUNTERS. At the end of this collection, the two essays coming together present a climax in three related ways: first, they intensify the corporeal cross species encounters explored in the earlier contributions by engaging with stories, histories, theories and practices that foreground the fleshly entanglement of organisms. Second, the essays look forward to the future not only of human-animal relations but of animal studies and other fields of research where the interplay between human and nonhuman companion species is more than a one-night stand. Third, the essays are also literally concerned with orgasms and other pleasures and joys experienced by human and nonhuman animals as they unleash their libidos and join in sexual acts real and imagined. Especially with regard to the latter theme, the authors are doing pioneering work, insofar as such animal encounters are still largely tabooed, both in society as well as in academia, including animal studies. Thus, this section presents an informed and theoretically grounded discussion of the ultimate cultural taboo, bestiality, or like
In general, the essays in the collection maintain an accessible tone whilst, on the other hand, revolving around high levels of academic scrutiny. Also, the essays in this volume are not intended for the ‘animal-beginner’ because they require a certain level of philosophical knowledge and awareness of the main threads of the current international animal studies debate in order to be fully appreciated.
Summary by Cut Mita
Name of Book: Animal Encounters: Human-Animal Studies