This book offers a unique interdisciplinary challenge to assumptions about animals and animality deeply embedded in our own ways of thought, and at the same time exposes highly sensitive and largely unexplored aspects of the understanding of our common humanity. The ten closely interconnected contributions raise a host of issues and debates of vital contemporary concern, which are thoroughly reviewed in a substantial editorial introduction. Definitions of the animal, whether 'folk' or 'scientific', and whether inclusive or exclusive of humanity, can reveal much about the preconceptions of those who make them. Representing such diverse disciplines as social and cultural anthropology, archaeology, biology, psychology and semiotics, the contributors to this volume are all concerned with the delineation of boundaries: between humans and non-human animals, between animals and other life forms, and between animate and inanimate.
By isolating what is peculiarly 'western' in the scientific conception of the animal, and by unpacking the multiple meanings of the term in popular discourse, they open the way to a better comprehension of our attitudes towards animals, and thereby to a broader understanding of what it means to be human. This important book will interest any reader concerned with the place of humankind within the animal kingdom. Students of biology, anthropology, archaeology, philosophy and psychology will find it especially useful.
." . . edited in masterly fashion."
." . . shows us how deep rooted and diverse are our ideas about how to define and classify animals."
""What is an Animal? will interest the general reader who is looking for a thorough review of current thinking on the subject of human/animal differences, similarities, and relationships. The book would also be appropriate for graduate seminars in anthropology, biology, philosophy, and the humanities concerned with animal and human evolution, the manner in which humans have conceptualized animals, what it means to be human, and the ethical treatment of animals."