History of Animal Studies at MSU

Linda Kalof David Favre

The Animal Studies Graduate Specialization: Humanities and Social Sciences Perspectives was founded in 2008 by Dr. Linda Kalof (Sociology) and Dr. David Favre (School of Law), with faculty affiliates from Sociology (Thomas Dietz, Carl Taylor, Stephen Gasteyer, Jennifer Carrera), Philosophy (Paul Thompson, Kyle Whyte), English (Scott Michaelsen), History (Georgina Montgomery), Global Urban Studies (Laura Reese), Community Sustainability (Laurie Thorp), Geography (Meredith Gore) and Psychology (William Chopik, Jonathan Weaver). Derek Moy (MSU's Creative Brand Manager & IT Coordinator) provided invaluable website setup and maintenance.

Twenty-eight students have completed the specialization (aka The Rhizomes) many of whom are now teaching animal studies at colleges and universities throughout the US. Others have positions with animal-focused organizations, including Curator of Humane Education with the Detroit Zoological Society, Michigan State Director of the Humane Society, Latin America Director of Re:Wild, and Head of Research and Animal Welfare at World Animal Protection.

The faculty and students are active scholars, with 184 publications to their credit since the beginning of the program (see Publications). Some notable publications in the last year (2021) include The Future of Animal Law (Favre), Alternative Animal Products: Protection Rhetoric or Protection Racket (Poirier), Wildlife Tourism and Consumption (Rizzolo), Environmental Values and Beliefs about Farm Animal Well-being (Suchyta), The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings, Second Edition (Kalof and Fitzgerald), How Farmers Repair the Industrial Agricultural System (Gunderson), Using Animal Portraiture to Activate Emotional Affect (Distinguished Article Award, American Sociological Association, 2021, Whitley, Kalof) and You Don’t Know What Worry Is: Interspecies Apprehension in As I Lay Dying (Rule). For the full list, see Publications.

One major outcome project of the Animal Studies Specialization is the comprehensive Online Animal Studies Bibliography, a substantial scholarly resource of more than 4,000 entries of published work in animal studies. In an attempt to organize the ever-expanding literature related to the social scientific study of other animals we developed and organized the Animal Studies Bibliography into the following substantive categories: animals as philosophical and ethical subjects; animals as reflexive thinkers; domestication and predation; animals as entertainment, sport and spectacle; animals as symbols; animals as companions; animals in science, education and therapy; animals in history; animals as food; animals in literature, art and popular culture; animals in feminism and ecofeminism; animals in religion, myth, and folktales; and conservation and human/animal conflict. We included a miscellaneous category where we have placed those citations that did not readily fit into one of the substantive categories. See our Online Bibliography.

A second major outcome of the Animal Studies Specialization is the Picturing Animals in National Geographic project funded by the National Science Foundation (Linda Kalof, Principal Investigator, NSF SES-1247824, 2013-2016, $247,000). The project developed a website that provides a teaching and learning tool for a broad audience interested in animal conservation and exploring the relationship humans have with other animals as photographed and narrated over the 20th century by National Geographic magazine. The Picturing Animals website consists of a sample of 117 animal photographs and metadata drawn from one issue per year 1896 to 2012 for which National Geographic holds copyright. The Picturing Animals full archive consists of 2,236 records of metadata on all photographs published in a random sample of one issue per year over the 20th century and is archived with public access at the Michigan State University Library (https://lib.msu.edu/branches/dmc/collectionbrowse/?coll=10&par=0) (scroll to the 7th entry in the list).

A third major outcome of the Animal Studies Specialization is The Animal Turn Book Series with Michigan State University Press, under the direction of Gabe Dotto and edited by Linda Kalof. The Animal Turn series focuses on how animals figure in human lives, how humans figure in animal lives, and how both are tethered together in an increasingly fragile biosphere. The series presents an interdisciplinary examination of the human-animal relationship as grounded in specific historical, cultural, and environmental contexts. Ten books have been published so far, and two volumes are forthcoming in 2022 (Josephine Donovan's Animals, Mind and Matter and Jonathan Thurston-Torres' Race and Animals).

With the onset of the Global Pandemic in 2020 the program began the transition to an online forum, The Online Graduate Certificate in Animal Studies: Humanities and Social Sciences Perspectives, launched in Fall semester 2022. For information on the new program, see Online Graduate Certificate.

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