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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: Humans and Other Species (SCAN10057)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat happens when we humans draw distinctions between ourselves and other living species? In this course we will examine the place that other forms of life - animals, plants, microbes - occupy in human worlds. Historically anthropologists have been interested in animals, because we can use our understanding of them to work out what is distinctive about humans, or, because as Levi-Strauss famously wrote, they are good to think with. More recently, anthropologists have begun to challenge the separation drawn between human and non-human forms of life, and ask about the bio-political consequences of scientific practices such as taxonomy and botany. Scholars in this field argue that the boundaries drawn up between species create hierarchies and inequalities, and that breaking down species distinctions reveals the extent to which our human and nonhuman lives are deeply imbricated in socioeconomic projects. More radically, some argue that we should abandon our anthropocentric views of the world in favour of an approach that recognizes the agency of other species. Alternatively, anthropologists of the non-western world are able to describe alternative modes of being that do not distinguish between humans and other species in the same way that we do.

In this course we will examine these debates by exploring topics such as domestication and pets; the parallels between breeding and kinship; animals, plants and microbes as scientific objects; zoonoses and pests; animal rights; extinction; the environment; non human ways of being; and the place of mythical creatures and monsters.
Course description 1: Introduction: Taxonomies
2: Pets and Domestic Animals
3: Animal Symbols
4: Pests and Bugs
5: Mythical Creatures and Monsters
6: Life Sciences
7: Being in the World with Animals
8: Animal Rights
9: Interspecies Ethnography
10: Environment, Protection, Extinction
11: Essay Writing Clinic
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. By the end of the course, students will have a critical understanding of the place that nonhuman species - animals, plants, microbes - occupy in human worlds
  2. Students will develop a critical understanding of the role that human efforts to distinguish ourselves from other species plays in shaping our worlds.
  3. students will be familiar with debates about the relationships that humans have with nonhuman life
  4. Students should be able to evaluate influential anthropological analyses of nonhuman forms of life - from structuralist and symbolic, political economic approaches, to more recent emphases on interspecies relations, anti-anthropocentrism, ontology and perspectivism.
  5. Critical analysis and discussion of case studies and theoretical essays will build anthropological skills in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.
Reading List
Core Readings
Cassidy, R. & M. Mullin (eds) 2007. Where the wild things are now. Oxford: Berg.
Fudge, E. 2002. Animal: Reaktion Books.
Hurn, S. 2012. Humans and Other Animals: Human-Animal Interactions in Cross Cultural Perspective. London: Pluto Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Rebecca Marsland
Tel: (0131 6)51 3864
Course secretaryMr Ewen Miller
Tel: (0131 6)50 3925
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