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'We must put ourselves in the position of the subject who tries to find his way in this world, and we must remember, first of all, that the environment by which he is influenced and to which he adapts himself is his world, not the objective world of science.'

W.I. Thomas
and
F. Znaniecki

Qualitative Sociology Review
2007
Volume III Issue 1


Author-Supplied Abstracts & Keywords


Leslie Irvine
     University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

The question of animal selves: Implications for sociological knowledge and practice

The question of whether sociologists should investigate the subjective experience of non-human others arises regularly in discussions of research on animals. Recent criticism of this research agenda as speculative and therefore unproductive is examined and found wanting. Ample evidence indicates that animals have the capacity to see themselves as objects, which meets sociological criteria for selfhood. Resistance to this possibility highlights the discipline's entrenched anthropocentrism rather than lack of evidence. Sociological study of the moral status of animals, based on the presence of the self, is warranted because our treatment of animals is connected with numerous "mainstream" sociological issues. As knowledge has brought other forms of oppression to light, it has also helped to challenge and transform oppressive conditions. Consequently, sociologists have an obligation to challenge speciesism as part of a larger system of oppression.

Keywords:
Animals, Self, Mead, Animal cognition, Consciousness.
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Pru Hobson-West
     University of Nottingham, UK

Beasts and boundaries: An introduction to animals in sociology, science and society

Traditionally, sociology has spent much more time exploring relationships between humans, than between humans and other animals. However, this relative neglect is starting to be addressed. For sociologists interested in human identity construction, animals are symbolically important in functioning as a highly complex and ambiguous "other". Theoretical work analyses the blurring of the human-animal boundary as part of wider social shifts to postmodernity, whilst ethnographic research suggests that human and animal identities are not fixed but are constructed through interaction. After reviewing this literature, the second half of the paper concentrates on animals in science and shows how here too, animals (rodents and primates in particular) are symbolically ambiguous. In the laboratory, as in society, humans and animals have unstable identities. New genetic and computer technologies have attracted much sociological attention, and disagreements remain about the extent to which human-animal boundaries are fundamentally challenged. The value of sociologists’ own categories has also been challenged, by those who argue that social scientists still persist in ignoring the experiences of animals themselves. This opens up notoriously difficult questions about animal agency. The paper has two main aims: First, to draw links between debates about animals in society and animals in science; and second, to highlight the ways in which sociologists interested in animals may benefit from approaches in Science and Technology Studies (STS).

Keywords:
Human-animal boundary, Boundary-work, Science & Technology Studies, Identity, Ambiguity, Actor Network Theory.
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Adrian Franklin
     University of Tasmania, Australia
     Michael Emmison
     University of Queensland, Australia
     Donna Haraway
     University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
     Max Travers
     University of Tasmania, Australia

Investigating the therapeutic benefits of companion animals: Problems and challenges

To investigate the health benefits of companion animals in a way that goes beyond finding statistical patterns involves appreciating the philosophical debates about the nature of animal consciousness that engage an inter-disciplinary field of scholarship cutting across the Great Divide of the hard sciences and humanities. It also requires developing a methodology to conduct empirical research which is often viewed as of secondary importance by researchers wishing to make a philosophical case about human beings and modernity. This paper considers the achievements of qualitative sociologists, particularly in the field of post-Meadian symbolic interactionism who have addressed these issues, and discusses ways of extending and deepening this agenda through cross-fertilization with similar work in ethnomethodology, conversation analysis and post-humanist sociology in investigating the health benefits of dogs.

Keywords:
Animal-human relationship, Health, Methodology, Qualitative research, Ethnography.
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Nicola Taylor
    Central Queensland University, Australia

'Never an It': Intersubjectivity and the creation of animal personhood in animal shelters

This paper argues that sociology should begin to turn its attention to human-animal interaction and that one particularly effective way to do so is to adopt a phenomenological approach. This approach sees the personality, and thus the personhood of animals, as intersubjectively and reflexively created. Based on ethnographic data collected over three years in animal sanctuaries this paper assesses how animal sanctuary workers labour collectively to establish the identity of the animals under their care and how this, in turn, justifies their attitudes towards, and treatment of, them.

Keywords:
Animals, Human-animal interaction, Intersubjectivity, Personhood, Personality.
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Colin Jerolmack
     City University of New York, Graduate Center, USA

Animal archeology: Domestic pigeons and the nature-culture dialectic

This paper historically traces the purposive domestication of pigeons in order to examine the dialectical relationship between nature and culture. It is demonstrated that each instance of the domestication of the pigeon for a new function (i.e., food, messenger) also entailed the construction of a role of the bird in human society, replete with symbolic representations and moral valuations. Yet it is also argued that, though animals are repositories for social meaning, and culture is literally inscribed into the physical structure of domesticated animals, such meanings are patterned and constrained according to the biological features of the animal itself. The ubiquitous and unwanted "street pigeon" now found around the globe is the descendent of escaped domestic pigeons, occupying the unique and ambiguous category of "feral" - neither truly wild nor domestic. Ironically, the very traits that were once so desirous and that were naturally selected for are now what make the feral pigeon so hard to get rid of and so loathsome.

Keywords:
Pigeon, Human-animal Relations, Domestication, Nature, History, Wildlife.
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Gennifer Furst
     William Patterson University, USA

Without words to get in the way: Symbolic interaction in prison-based animal programs

George H. Mead (1934) contended a person's sense of self develops from language-based interactions with other humans in society. According to contemporary sociologists, a person's sense of self is also influenced by non-verbal interactions with human and non-human animals. The present research extends Sanders (1993) work that examined how dog owners relate to their pets and come to develop a unique social identity for them. Through interviews with participants in prison-based animal programs (PAPs), this research explores whether inmates engaged in a similar process of assigning the animals with which they work a human-like identity. The implications of the relationships that develop in terms of desistance, which Maruna (2001) argued requires a redefinition of a person's self-identity, are discussed.

Keywords:
Symbolic interaction, Animals in prison, Human-animal interaction.
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Krzysztof T. Konecki
     Lodz University, Poland

Pets of Konrad Lorenz. Theorizing in the social world of pet owners

This article explores the personal account titled Man meets dog ([1949] 2002) by an outstanding ethologist Konrad Lorenz who is one of the key theoreticians of the social world of pet owners. His lines of argumentation and categories of pet perception within this social world may be reconstructed from his personal recollections. The concepts of the social world and arena are the key notions that integrate the current analysis. The arena is also formed in the course of the inner conversation and is often going together with the outer disputes of a social world. It might seem that Konrad Lorenz as a scientist and ethologist should avoid using anthropomorphic categories. However, as he shares the same space (including private space) and communicates with domestic animals, the author tends to anthropomorphise their behaviour, even though formally he opposes or even despises the idea, applying a disdainful term of "sentimental anthropomorphisation" to people who do so. Additionally, the article addresses the biographic context of the ethologist's life and his writings together with the activities of the Second World War as well as his collaboration with the Nazi government. Konrad Lorenz represents the so-called "cult of nature" approach which, in the opinion of his opponents, has a lot in common with the Nazi doctrine (Sax 1997).

Keywords:
Sociology of human animals – non-human animals relationships, Symbolic interaction, Anthropomorphisation, Social world, Legitimization, Theorizing, Arena.
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