Tag Archive for Animal Studies

Weil Delivers Keynote at Animal Studies Conference in Chicago

Kari Weil

Kari Weil

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, delivered a keynote address on “Animal Studies: The Ends of Empathy and Beginnings of Reading” at a “Why do Animal Studies?” conference April 3-4 at the University of Chicago.

During the conference, scholars discussed “What is it that draws a multiplicity of voices into this conversation, and how can they productively engage with one another? Why has this field of inquiry gained such traction in recent decades? How is Animal Studies taking shape as a field that overlaps multiple discourses and disciplines, and what opportunities or difficulties arise as a result? How do different methodologies clarify or substantiate one another, fill knowledge gaps, and illuminate unknown aspects of individual areas of interest?”

Weil has published widely on literary representations of gender, feminist theory, and, more recently, on theories and representations of animal otherness. She recently co-edited a special issue of Hypatia titled, Animal Others (2012) and she is the author of  Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now (2012) and Androgyny and the Denial of Difference (1992). Her current project is tentatively titled,  ‘The Most Beautiful Conquest of Man’ ?: Horses and Other Animal Pursuits in 19-Century France.

Gruen Edits New Book on The Ethics of Captivity

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen

The Ethics of Captivity

Book edited by Lori Gruen.

Lori Gruen, professor of philosophy, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, professor of environmental studies, and coordinator of Wesleyan Animal Studies recently edited a new book, The Ethics of Captivity. The book explores the various conditions of captivity for humans and for other animals and examines ethical themes that imprisonment raises.  Chapters written by those with expert knowledge about particular conditions of captivity discuss how captivity is experienced.  The book also contains new essays by philosophers and social theorists that reflect on the social, political, and ethical issues raised by captivity.

One topic covered in many chapters in the book is zoos.  Gruen recently published on Oxford University Press’s blog about the high-profile killing of a two-year-old giraffe named Marius by the Copenhagen Zoo because his genes were already “well-represented” in Europe’s giraffe population. His body was autopsied in public and fed to lions. Those lions, an adult pair and their two cubs, were later killed to make room for a younger male lion that was not related to any of the captive female lions.

Gruen writes that while zoos were originally designed to entertain visitors, they have increasingly expanded their roles to include conservation and education due to the heightened awareness of endangered species and the danger of extinction. Zoos tend to place more value in the overall genetic diversity of a captive population than on the well-being of an individual animal. Gruen  suggests that seeing animals as disposable may undermine conservation efforts. That attitude towards animals is part of what has lead to so many wild animals to be threatened.  She reminds us that “Causing death is what zoos do. It is not all that they do, but it is a big part of what happens at zoos, even if this is usually hidden from the public. Zoos are institutions that not only purposely kill animals, they are also places that in holding certain animals captive, shorten their lives. Some animals, such as elephants and orca whales, cannot thrive in captivity and holding them in zoos and aquaria causes them to die prematurely.”  Some of the chapters in the upcoming book explore how zoos affect animals in the zoos and the people who watch those animals.

Click here to learn more about the book or to purchase it.

Gruen also wrote a post on OUP Blog based on the book.

Gruen, Weil, Animal Studies Featured in The New York Times

The New York Times explores the increasing attention being paid to Animal Studies at universities across the country, and features two Wesleyan faculty in the piece: Lori Gruen, chair and professor of philosophy, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, and Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters. Both have researched, published, and lectured widely in the field.

The article, dated Jan. 2, also mentions Wesleyan’s Human-Animal Studies Fellowship Program.

Animal Studies Scholars Explore Human-Animal Relations

Wesleyan’s Animal Studies hosted the Animals and Society Institute-Wesleyan Animal Studies Fellowship Program Conference June 27-30 in Usdan University Center. The conference is the culminating event in the first annual ASI-WAS Fellowship Program, which brings to campus a broad range of scholars studying human-animal relations. Lori Gruen, chair and professor of philosophy, and Kari Weil, university professor of letters, co-organized the conference.

Photos of the conference faculty, guests and ASI fellows are below:

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, spoke on “Animal Deaths and Melancholy Becomings" on June 28.

Kelly Enright, a writer, historian and museum consultant, spoke on "Extinction: How we lose, mourn, and live with lost species" on June 28. Enright, of Vail, Colo. is the author of Rhinoceros (Reaktion 2008), America’s Natural Places: Rocky Mountains & Great Plains (Greenwood 2010), and Osa & Martin: For the Love of Adventure (Lyons 2011). Enright has consulted for museums and non-profits, including the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History.

Summer Conference Addresses Human-Animal Relations

Wesleyan's Animal Studies is hosting the Animals and Society Institute-Wesleyan Animal Studies Fellowship Program Conference June 27-30 in Usdan 108. The event is open to the public.

An international group of scholars convenes at Wesleyan on June 27 for a four-day conference on topics in animal studies, including animal naming, the ways children mourn animal deaths, 19th-Century pet-keeping and the human impulse to laugh when playing with dogs.

The conference is the culminating event in the first annual Animals and Society Institute-Wesleyan Animal Studies Fellowship Program, which brings to campus a broad range of scholars studying human-animal relations.

The group includes professors and Ph.D. candidates in a variety of fields, including psychology, sociology, philosophy, English, women’s studies, veterinary medicine and environmental studies. Eight of the presenters are fellows, the others are invited guests.

“We have been extremely impressed with the diversity and high quality of the projects that the fellows are working on,” says Professor and Chair of Philosophy Lori Gruen, a co-host of the program, along with Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters.

Gruen’s talk is called “Pan thanatology – Mourning Chimpanzees.” Weil will deliver a talk called “Animal Deaths and Melancholy Becomings.”

For a full schedule of lectures and their titles, please click here.

The conference runs from Monday, June 27 through Thursday June 30. It is free and open to the public. Events take place in Room 108 of the Usdan University Center.

Says Weil: “Given the exciting, compassionate and sometimes tough discussions that Lori and I have had with the fellows,

Scholars, Experts Speak at Great Apes Symposium

Lori Gruen makes introductory remarks at the “Protecting Great Apes: How Science and Ethics Contribute to Conservation" symposium April 22. Gruen, chair and associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, organized the event. She also is teaching a course this semester titled “Primate Encounters” and has published a book on ethics and animals.

Wesleyan To Host Symposium on Great Apes, Ethics, Conservation

Lori Gruen is organizing the upcoming symposium titled “Protecting Great Apes: How Science and Ethics Contribute to Conservation.” (Photo by John Van Vlack)

A diverse group of primate researchers will convene at Wesleyan on April 22 for a day-long symposium about the relationship between humans and the other great apes – chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas. The schedule is online here.

“Protecting Great Apes: How Science and Ethics Contribute to Conservation” will feature presentations by anthropologists, psychologists, primatologists and conservationists who study or advocate for non-human great apes in the wild and in captivity. Discussions will follow each talk, with an emphasis on chimpanzee behavior and the ethical treatment of non-human great apes.

“We’re in this complicated and increasingly intense relationship with the other great apes,” says Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and the symposium’s principal organizer. “If chimps and other great apes were living in their worlds undisturbed by our activities, we wouldn’t have to raise questions about our relationship to them.”

Gruen is currently teaching a course called “Primate Encounters,” in which students examine

Gruen Authors Animal Ethics Book

Book by Lori Gruen.

Lori Gruen, chair of the Philosophy Department, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of environmental studies, is the author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction, published by Cambridge University Press in March 2011.

In this comprehensive introduction to animal ethics, Gruen weaves together poignant and provocative case studies with discussions of ethical theory, urging readers to engage critically and empathetically reflect on their treatment of other animals. She provides a survey of the issues central to human-animal relations and a reasoned new perspective on current key debates in the field. She analyzes and explains a range of theoretical positions and poses challenging questions that directly encourage readers to hone their ethical reasoning skills and to develop a defensible position about their own practices.

Her book will be an invaluable resource for students in a wide range of disciplines including ethics, environmental studies, veterinary science, women’s studies, and the emerging field of animal studies and is an engaging account of the subject for general readers with no prior background in philosophy.

Her book includes studies of provocative cases to illustrate difficult ethical dilemmas and provides key points of reference for discussion of ethical theories concerning the relationship between humans and animals.

Intersections between Feminism, Animal Studies Explored at Conference

Karen Emmerman, a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Washington, speaks on “What’s Love Got to Do With It? Partiality, Human Interests, and Inter-animal Conflicts” at the Sex, Gender, Species conference Feb. 25-26. Wesleyan Animal Studies and The Center for the Study of Public Life sponsored the event, which explored the intersections between feminism and animal studies and the practical and theoretical problems central to both fields.


First Sex, Gender, Species Conference Drawing Strong Interest

Sixteen speakers from a range of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts will focus on a variety of topics addressing human-animal relations and their representations.

Sex, Gender, Species is the title of an international conference being hosted by Wesleyan Animal Studies and The Center for the Study of Public Life on Feb. 25-26.

The conference will explore the intersections between feminist and animal studies and the practical and theoretical problems central to both fields. Speakers from a range of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts will focus on a variety of topics addressing human-animal relations and their representations.

“The growing field of animal studies has turned critical attention to the real conditions and stakes of human relationships with other animals,” says Lori Gruen, conference co-organizer and associate professor, philosophy, associate professor, feminist, gender and sexuality studies. “We were overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the response to our call for papers and are looking forward to an intellectually rich conference.”

The conference has five sessions. Friday, Feb. 25, will feature presentations

New Academic Partnership, Fellowship Advances Animal Studies

Lori Gruen (left) and Kari Weil

Wesleyan University and the Animals and Society Institute (ASI) have formed a partnership and will offer the “ASI-WAS Human-Animal Studies Summer Fellowship” in 2011 through Wesleyan’s recently-launched College of the Environment.

The ASI-WAS Human-Animal Studies Summer Fellowship marks the launch of Wesleyan Animal Studies (WAS), which will advance the rapidly growing field of Animal Studies and foster scholarship on human-animal relations from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives.

The fellowship will be hosted by Wesleyan faculty Lori Gruen and Kari Weil. Gruen is chair and associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies at Wesleyan, and author of  Ethics and Animals: An Introduction (Cambridge, Feb. 2011). Weil is a visiting professor of letters at Wesleyan, and author of Thinking Animals: An Introduction (Columbia, 2011).

The ASI’s Human-Animal Studies Fellowship Program was started in 2007 by its executive director,