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Beastly Natures

Beastly Natures: Animals, Humans, and the Study of History

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Beastly Natures
    Book Description:

    Although the animal may be, as Nietzsche argued, ahistorical, living completely in the present, it nonetheless plays a crucial role in human history. The fascination with animals that leads not only to a desire to observe and even live alongside them, but to capture or kill them, is found in all civilizations. The essays collected inBeastly Naturesshow how animals have been brought into human culture, literally helping to build our societies (as domesticated animals have done) or contributing, often in problematic ways, to our concept of the wild.

    The book begins with a group of essays that approach the historical relevance of human-animal relations seen from the perspectives of various disciplines and suggest ways in which animals might be brought into formal studies of history. Differences in species and location can greatly affect the shape of human-animal interaction, and so the essays that follow address a wide spectrum of topics, including the demanding fate of the working horse, the complex image of the American alligator (at turns a dangerous predator and a tourist attraction), the zoo gardens of Victorian England, the iconography of the rhinoceros and the preference it reveals in society for myth over science, relations between humans and wolves in Europe, and what we can learn from society's enthusiasm for "political" animals, such as the pets of the American presidents and the Soviet Union's "space dogs." Taken together, these essays suggest new ways of looking not only at animals but at human history.


    Mark V. Barrow Jr., Virginia Tech * Peter Edwards, Roehampton University * Kelly Enright, Rutgers University * Oliver Hochadel, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona * Uwe Lübken, Rachel Carson Center, Munich * Garry Marvin, Roehampton University * Clay McShane, Northeastern University * Amy Nelson, Virginia Tech * Susan Pearson, Northwestern University * Helena Pycior, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee * Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology * Nigel Rothfels, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee * Joel A. Tarr, Carnegie Mellon University * Mary Weismantel, Northwestern University

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2995-8
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Dorothee Brantz

    “Observe the herd which is grazing beside you. It does not know what yesterday or today is. It springs around, eats, rests, digests, jumps up again, and so from morning to night and from day to day, with its likes and dislikes closely tied to the peg of the moment, and thus neither melancholy nor weary.”¹ Friedrich Nietzsche’s well-known treatiseThe Use and Abuse of History for Lifeopens with this passage about herd animals’ quotidian existence and concludes, somewhat enviously, with the observation that “the beast lives unhistorically for it gets up in the present like a number without...

  4. PART I An Anthropological History of Animals and the Environment

    • Does “The Animal” Exist? Toward a Theory of Social Life with Animals
      (pp. 17-37)

      Animals still elude us. As numerous conference panels, symposia, books, book series, and academic journals attest, the field of animal studies has become an extraordinarily rich and productive one; yet, despite all our efforts, the animals of our scholarship too often figure only as “objects in human culture,” containers of human projections, and as useful tools for drawing social boundaries. When we try to imagine them otherwise, to see them in and of themselves—we fail; ultimately, we find ourselves strangely condemned to replicate, in slightly different terms, the long-standing opposition between nature and culture.¹ Caught between the Scylla of...

    • Touching Animals The Search for a Deeper Understanding of Animals
      (pp. 38-58)

      Since 2002, when it was first displayed at the Arsenale in Venice, Gregory Colbert’s multimedia exhibition Ashes and Snow has drawn more than 1 million visitors to venues in New York City, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Tokyo, and Mexico. The exhibition includes more than fifty untitled, large-format, sepia-tone photographs of animals and people; a sixty-minute 35mm film; two nine-minute film “haikus”; and an epistolary novel that details a journey through time and space toward enlightenment. Ashes and Snow reaches a global audience, as well, through its Web site, online bookstore, affiliated foundation, and more. Every aspect of the project is...

    • Wolves in Sheep’s (and Others’) Clothing
      (pp. 59-78)

      Jesus warned his followers, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”¹ For the metaphor to make sense, Jesus depended on his listeners’ local understanding that wolves were a threat to flocks of sheep—an everyday problem for many shepherds. But wolves did not, at that or any other time, ever prey on sheep in the ways that ungodly men preyed on a vulnerable religious flock of humans. Wolves were not consciously engaged in vicious, inappropriate, or immoral behavior when they killed and ate the sheep belonging to the shepherds, even...

  5. PART II Acculturating Wild Creatures

    • Darwin in the Monkey Cage The Zoological Garden as a Medium of Evolutionary Theory
      (pp. 81-107)

      On 2 October 1878, a long-awaited shipment of eighty-two animals from East Africa and Southeast Asia arrived in Vienna, accompanied by much fanfare in the press.¹ The newcomers—including tigers, porcupines, antelopes, a boa constrictor, and several exotic birds—allegedly drew between forty and fifty thousand visitors to the Schönbrunn Menagerie the first Sunday they were on display.² The chief attraction was a young female orangutan, whose movements were said to be “damn human.”³ Called “Madame Sophie” by the menagerie’s assistant inspector, Alois Kraus, the four-year-old primate was described as “an exceedingly unique animal.” During the journey to Schönbrunn, she...

    • Why the Rhinoceros Doesn’t Talk The Cultural Life of a Wild Animal in America
      (pp. 108-126)

      On Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, three animatronic men are forever chased up a palm tree by a rhinoceros whose sharp horn moves endlessly just out of reach of the lowest man’s bottom. Visitors to this ride float past harmless elephants who squirt water in the boat’s direction, playful gorillas ransacking a camp, and an intimidating herd of hippos who, despite the guide’s fearful warnings, do nothing but surface menacingly from the man-made lagoon.

      Since 1955, the Jungle Cruise has been an anomaly in the theme park. While other rides humanize animals, here they do not talk or sing. They resemble their...

    • The Alligator’s Allure Changing Perceptions of a Charismatic Carnivore
      (pp. 127-152)

      The American alligator (known to scientists asAlligator mississippiensis) is a large, toothy reptile that can grow to sixteen feet or longer. Although it inhabits freshwater swamps, marshes, rivers, and lakes throughout much of the southeastern United States, the species is most abundant in Florida and Louisiana.¹ As a member of the order Crocodilia, the alligator belongs to a 230-million-year lineage that survived the Cretaceous mass extinction, when a remarkable 85 percent of the earth’s species perished. As a semi-aquatic creature, the alligator moves freely between water and land. And as a large, toplevel carnivore, the species not only projects...

  6. PART III Animals in the Service of Society

    • Nature Bridled The Treatment and Training of Horses in Early Modern England
      (pp. 155-175)

      Throughout history, man has attempted to dominate his environment and exploit its flora and fauna for his own ends. At first, as a hunter-gatherer, he competed with other animals for food, but he did not begin radically to change the world in which he lived, until he settled down and began to farm. Cultivation of the soil and the domestication of animals not only helped man to meet his basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter but also added to the ways in which he could exploit his surroundings and his fellow creatures. By the early modern period, man’s demands...

    • The Public and Private Lives of “First Dogs” Warren G. Harding’s Laddie Boy and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fala
      (pp. 176-203)

      From the early twentieth century, the dogs of American presidents have enjoyed a special status. The iconic standing of the wives and families of the presidents as “first ladies” and “first families” has been extended to the “first dogs.” Ranking high in the pantheon of first dogs are President Warren G. Harding’s Laddie Boy, who was the first of the modern first dogs, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fala, arguably the most revered of the first dogs. This essay aims, first, to introduce Laddie Boy and Fala as legitimate biographical subjects and, secondly, to deepen the historical understanding of the...

    • The Legacy of Laika Celebrity, Sacrifice, and the Soviet Space Dogs
      (pp. 204-224)

      On 3 November 1957, less than a month after the successful launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, the Soviet Union achieved another milestone in the space race when a small, mixed-breed dog named Laika became the first living creature to orbit the earth. Sealed within the tiny cabin ofSputnik 2,Laika was provided with food, water, and a climate-control system designed to support her for several days. The space capsule was not engineered to be retrievable, so the dog’s death was a certainty from the outset. For forty years, the Soviets maintained that she had died painlessly after...

  7. PART IV Animating the City and the Countryside

    • The Horse in the Nineteenth-Century American City
      (pp. 227-245)

      Historians usually depict the nineteenth century as the age of the steam engine, but the giant cities created by the new railroad networks could never have functioned without equine labor, too, incongruous as that seems. Horses hauled the goods essential for growth in those cities from depot to worksite and to consumers. Horse-powered transit allowed burgeoning urban populations to deconcentrate. Urban historians have paid too little attention to these four-legged workers, whether in the streets or on the docks, in construction or in factories. On average, cities required one horse for every twenty people. Some horse populations were huge: in...

    • “Poor Dumb Brutes” or “Friends in Need”? Animals and River Floods in Modern Germany and the United States
      (pp. 246-263)

      On 25 January 1937, Elsa Odman left Chicago to report for duty in Evansville, Indiana. Two days later, together with nine of her fellow Red Cross nurses, she boarded a U.S. Naval Reserve boat that went up the Ohio River. The boat was an open one, as she explained in a letter to her supervisor, Charlotte Heilman, but the Red Cross had provided “a good supply of blankets and we surely needed them, as it was very cold on the river.”¹ The current was so swift that they sometimes progressed only a single mile in an hour. After an overnight...

    • Counting Sheep in the English Lake District Rare Breeds, Local Knowledge, and Environmental History
      (pp. 264-280)

      In 2001, British television viewers were horrified to witness an apparent military assault on the nation’s ovine population. Civilian resources had proved inadequate to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and so the army was called in to expedite the destruction and disposal of sick animals as well as those considered at risk, which included apparently healthy herds and flocks living within a mile or so of any actual infection.¹ This dramatic episode had serious political and economic implications. The British livestock industry was just beginning to recover from the protracted crisis caused by BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 281-284)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 285-296)