Why Animal Studies Now?: A Short Personal Note from the Editor

The following post is by Wendy Lochner, senior executive editor for Religion, Philosophy, and Animal Studies

Why animal studies now? Like many people who are interested in the fate of animals and of the Earth, I came to this issue from an activist animal-rights perspective. My background is in philosophy, and I eagerly read and absorbed the arguments of Peter Singer and Tom Regan. As I read further I became hungry for approaches that moved even further toward commonality, and I embraced the absolutist views of scholars such as Gary Francione.

But still I was troubled by the indifference of most people to the conditions of animal life. They can know about deplorable factory-farm conditions, for example, and yet not incorporate that knowledge into their behavior or ethical views. A winning argument, I felt, was not rooted in rational discourse alone; it needed to change hearts and minds by appealing to humans’ emotional connections to, love for, and kinship with animals.

I began to read work by Cora Diamond, Cary Wolfe, John Coetzee, Alice Crary, and others, who convinced me of the power of literature to advance the animal issue. Soon I discovered that many ethologists, religion scholars, and sociologists were also committed to showing the scientific, social-scientific, and humanities bases for a loving involvement with animals as part of a worldview in which the “question of the animal” becomes a fundamental concern of critical inquiry, one in which the terms, concepts, and forms of evidence that we use can themselves be questioned in terms of the presuppositions they make about animals and human—and nonhuman—animal relationships. What is required is no less than a radical rethinking of the nature of humanity itself as inextricably cojoined with our nonhuman kin and in common cause with them.

It is this point of view that I (and many others) call animal studies, and it is my intention as an editor to foster interdisciplinary work from all fields that considers these and many other interrelated questions.


For a list of animal studies titles from Columbia University Press.

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