What is Human-Animal studies?

The last few decades have seen the emergence and rapid growth of a new field of multi- and inter-disciplinary inquiry, called variously “Human-Animal Studies” (HAS), “Animal Studies”, or “Anthrozoology”. Contributions to this field draw upon a wide range of disciplinary formations: sociology, philosophy and history; studies of literature, the visual arts, cinema and popular culture; biobehavioural biology; science, technology, and medicine studies. What unites HAS work from all these disciplines is a determination to find new ways of thinking about animals and about human-animal relationships.

Among the many lines of inquiry pursued by HAS researchers are the following:

  • exploring how notions of animality are fundamental to a range of concepts that play an important ideological and intellectual role in modern Western thought: for example “nature”, “culture”, “society”, “civilisation”, “the human”, “the native”, “the exotic”, “the primitive”;
  • examining the place, treatment and actions of animals in science, farming, industry, tourism and other human practices;
  • analysing the representation of animals in literature, film, television, the visual arts, and other cultural forms;
  • researching the history of humans' changing attitudes towards and treatment of animals;
  • developing new paradigms in philosophy, the arts and the sciences for thinking about animals and their relationship to humans.

Here at the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies, we also believe that this kind of research and scholarship brings with it a responsibilty to challenge anthropocentrism and to account for the interests and agency of animals.