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Human culture values some nonhumans but not others, while human culture as a whole is engaged with an incredibly diverse range of living beings. Animal studies is a growing interdisciplinary field that incorporates scholarship from public policy, sociology, religion, politics, philosophy, and many other fields. In essence, it seeks to understand how humans study and conceive of other-than-human animals, and how these conceptions have changed over time, across cultures, and among various scholarly modes of inquiry. This interdisciplinary introduction to the field boldly and creatively foregrounds the realities of nonhuman animals, as well as the imaginative and ethical faculties that humans must engage to consider our intersection with living beings outside of our species. The field requires both learning and unlearning to develop forms of critical thinking that are scientifically informed and ethically sensitive. This book is a frank assessment of the ways human-centered approaches undermine the core values of the scientific tradition, robust education, and human compassion. Further, it argues that the breadth and depth of thinking and the humility needed to grasp the human-nonhuman intersection has the potential to expand the dualism that currently divides the sciences and humanities. As the first holistic survey of the field,Animal Studiesis essential reading for any student of human-animal relationships, and for all people who care about the role nonhuman animals play in our society.
Paul Waldau is Associate Professor of Anthrozoology and Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation at Canisius College and since 2002 has taught the Animal Law course at Harvard Law School.