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Department of Anthropology

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Topics in Anthropology: Animals Made Us Human

Anthropology 4108 - Fall 2020

Today, people often see animals as pets, even members of the family, or as food. Relationships with wild animals are diminishing in many places as populations move to the cities, and relationships between people and animals vary widely. In this seminar we use current articles and seminal anthropological and evolutionary literature to examine ways that changing human-animal relations influenced humans over the long term. Social distances between humans and our nearest relatives have increased over the last 4 million years with dramatic turning points 12,000 and 300 years ago, but biological distances are less marked. Here we explore a range of key issues through time starting with the history of western conceptual divisions between humans and animals, which contrast with more fluid boundaries in other world regions. We will also examine hunting and symbolic relations with wild animals relying on data from ancient animal bones, art and texts. Domestic animal partnerships are a focus of much of the course, starting with dogs and moving to pigs, sheep and cattle and to transport animals, donkeys, horses and camelids. Birds including chickens, turkeys and ostriches may also be a focus of research. We will examine the role of animals in human thought including religion and folklore and discuss current and future human-animal relationships. One of the goals of the course is to provide an overview of ways that animals have influenced human life, rates and patterns of change in human society and long-term perspectives on human life in the 21st century.
Course Attributes: EN SAS SSC

Section 01

Topics in Anthropology: Animals Made Us Human
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