Looking at Animals in Human History

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Reaktion Books, Aug 15, 2007 - Art - 222 pages
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From the first cave paintings to Britta Jaschinski's provocative animal photography, it seems we have been describing and portraying animals, in some form or another, for as long as we have been human. This book provides a broad historical overview of our representations of animals, from prehistory to postmodernity, and how those representations have altered with changing social conditions. Taking in a wide range of visual and textual materials, Linda Kalof unearths many surprising and revealing examples of our depictions of animals. She also examines animals in a broad sweep of literature, narrative and criticism: from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History to Donna Haraway’s writings on animal–human–machine interaction; and from accounts of the Black Plague and histories of the domestic animal and zoos, to the ways that animal stereotypes have been applied to people to highlight hierarchies of gender, race and class. Well-researched and scholarly, yet very accessible, this book is a significant contribution to the human–animal story. Featuring more than 60 images, Looking at Animals in Human History brings together a wealth of information that will appeal to the wide audience interested in animals, as well as to specialists in many disciplines. Linda Kalof is professor of sociology at Michigan State University. Her books include The Earthscan Reader in Environmental Values and The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings.

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User Review  - karl.steel - LibraryThing

Kalof goes wrong from the very first word: "we." Clearly she means "we humans," since, of course, humans are animals too. So it's deeply anthropocentric, here and throughout. Worse still, despite the ... Read full review

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Looking at Animals is the only book I know that covers the full sweep of human-animal history, from the cave paintings to contemporary art. (It focuses exclusively on Western history, where the research base is strongest, but publishers often put a too broad title on this kind of book.) Historians like to focus on details: what happened in one village over a 50 year span. That’s useful, but we lose the broad patterns that Kalof covers and that are so fascinating. While informed by social theory, her narrative is an intriguing look at the big picture, not a one dimensional effort to prove a theory. It is a fascinating story, and the book itself is beautifully done, with many illustrations of how animals have been represented in Western art over the millennia. The clarity and breadth of her presentation is not surprising as she is also the co-editor of the standard text in animal studies, The Animals Reader. 


Antiquity 5000 BCAD 500
The Middle Ages 5001400
The Renaissance 14001600
The Enlightenment 16001800
Modernity 18002000
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About the author (2007)

Linda Kalof is professor of sociology at Michigan State University. She is also author of The Earthscan Reader in Environmental Values, A Cultural History of Animals: v. 1-6, and The Animals Reader.

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