Thursday, July 08, 2010

New 'animal studies' courses look at culture, not biology

In his first year as an assistant professor in the University of Iowa's archaeology department, Matthew E. Hill made a move that many other junior faculty would have considered risky: he said he wanted to teach an undergraduate seminar on animals and culture.

"When I first proposed the course, I thought I would get a more negative response — 'Oh, it's fluffy' — and I still worry about some of my colleagues having that attitude," he says. "But my chair and other people have been supportive, interested."

As Jennifer Epstein writes in today's USA Today: "Hill's courses aren't outliers, but part of an emerging group of courses that meld approaches and texts from law, religion, ethics, literature, visual art, ecology, sociology and other fields to consider the role animals play in human culture."

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