Books  Animal & General Biology  Animals: Behaviour 

The Animal/Human Boundary: Historical Perspectives

Edited By: Angela NH Creager and William Chester Jordan

360 pages, 25 b/w illus

University of Rochester Press

Hardback | Jan 2003 | #157098 | ISBN: 1580461204
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NHBS Price: £55.00 $71/€60 approx

About this book

The way in which humans articulate identities, social hierarchies, and their inversions through relations with animals has been a fruitful topic in anthropological and historical investigations for the last several years. The contributors to this volume call attention to the symbolic meanings of animals, from the casting of first-year students as goats in medieval universities to the representation of vermin as greedy thieves in early modern England. But the essays in this volume are also concerned with the more material and bodily aspects of animal-human relations, like eating regulations, aggression, and transplanting of animal organs into human beings (xenotransplantation). Modern biologists have increasingly problematized the human-animal boundary. Researchers have challenged the supposedly unique ability of humans to use language. Chimpanzees and gorillas, it has been argued, have learned to communicate using American Sign Language. In addition, some scientists regard the sophistication of modes of communication in species like dolphins and songbirds as undermining the view of humans as uniquely capable of complex expressions. As studies of nonhuman primates threaten to compromise the long-held assumption that only humans possess self-awareness. The question becomes: How can one firmly differentiate human beings from other animals?

The Animal/Human Boundary will stand as a model for how research from different historical perspectives can be brought together in a coherent, valuable whole. ANTHROZOOS 2004


Eating animals in the early Middle Ages - classifying the animal world and building group identities; the representation of medieval peasants as bestial and as human; separating the men from the goats - masculinity, civilization and identity formation in the medieval university; imagining vermin in early modern England; "Things Fearful to Name" - bestiality in early America; gaurdian spirits or demonic pets - the concept of the witch's familiar in early modern England, 1530-1712; on the sexual assault of animals - a sociological view; the familiar other and feral selves - life at the human/animal boundary; the founders of ethology and the problem of human aggression - a study in ethology's ecologies; animal parts/human bodies - organic transplantation in early-20th-century America.

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Angela N. H. Creager and William Chester Jordan are associates of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University.

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