From W2D to D2D

In Mark Derr’s book, How the Dog Became the Dog, he brings up some very interesting points about how it’s not so much the dog evolving from the wolf, but how the dog slowly transcended from itself, into different species, looks, etc. All these byproducts of domestication created a somewhat perverted want for different traits in dogs: size reduction, shortening of jaws and nose, coat color changes, etc. This desire was mainly of the uniqueness and utility of the dogs themselves.

I loved his idea of “socialized” (versus tamed) wolves, as socialization was key to the process of the domestication of the wolf. That really puts it in a perspective that I’ve been thinking about since I’ve started learning about domesticates. I really like social interaction as a basis to all domesticated life humans have created. From the first encounters, to the multiple visits, to the co-evolving of these species, social interaction was a key part in all aspects of domestication.

I wish I could sit at the table with the theorists of the different ideas about when the dog domestication actually occurred, and just listen to all the different arguments they would have. Basically it boils down to 2 (or 3) groups: first being that dog domestication occurred some 40-50 thousand years ago, saying dogs came about it multiple, different locations and cross-bred with wild wolves (and they say this process still goes on). The second view states that this process started around 12-16 thousand years ago,having to do with the Last Glacial maximum. The third group dates around 27 thousand years ago, based on some DNA evidence of a dog genome.

His argument about the cultural differences that influenced different dogs was impressive as well. One of his examples was WWII, when dogs went\ unfed, and started scavenging, thus creating vicious “canine gangs” as he put it. Mirror that with the Canaan dog, which was a very inbred dog from the Bedouin dog, that was so vicious (and possibly ugly, unwanted) that Israeli officers would told “shoot to kill” when in sight of one. All of this culturally different social interaction caused different domestication styles, perhaps?

Reindeer rejuiced

This week’s readings on Vitbsky’s The Reindeer People had some very interesting things to say. The book as a whole was much unlike what we’ve been reading, as this was more of a story than a non-fiction, yet it was both, and made for an interesting read. The story is along the lines of this: A scholar is interested in the domesticated reindeer, and the people that came about it. He then visits, and ends up staying in a remote village, where literally the entire economy is centered around reindeer. Everyone who’s anyone works with the reindeer, or indirectly with the people that do.

The book starts off with some touching, essential details giving background information on the Eveny people, or these people that live in Siberia. He tells about the stories of the first following herds of wild reindeer, as well as domesticating them. The reindeer were so important to the Eveny people, as they had many stories on them, tattooed images of powerful reindeer on their bodies, and even dressed up horses as reindeer for sacrificial events. This comes to my first question I’ll be asking, as a co-leader of this week’s discussion: 1)What do you think made the reindeer so… immediate in the Eveny lifestyles?

As thousands of years and life progressed onward, we come to a time (in the book, that is) of communism in these lands. The Eveny ways are being “liberated” from Russian lifestyle, as they deemed these people as “backward” citizens. The even went as far as  arrest Vitebsky for reading a book on Shamanism! They literally took over the herding of the reindeer, and conformed it to meet the needs of the controlling government, leaving very little to the inhabitants of the land (except for the able-bodied who worked on hearding these reindeer, they were offered decent pay, vacations, etc). It almost seemed, no, it DID seem that the government was almost forcing the entire labor force of that area to partake in herding the reindeer, strictly for the benefits.

Reading this striked up a few questions, which I would encourage anyone to comment on now, but we will be going over in class as well (since I am a discussion leader):

  1. Already said, but here I will expand: 1)What do you think made the reindeer so… immediate in the Eveny lifestyles? Could it have been another animal, should reindeer have never existed? Do you think the sacredness  came before or after the domestication of the reindeer?
  2. What were some of the reasons the communist party wanted to rid the nomad way of life? Did classifying reindeer herding as strictly an “economic activity” have anything to do with this?
  3. What is the difference between the Eveny and the Sakha? (I honestly don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking, not as much as a discussion question, more for my benefit)
  4. Why do you think the Soviets were investing so much into reindeer herding in these areas? Why would they give benefits to these workers they deemed backwards, and gave prizes, cash, vacations, etc. to them?
  5. Could anyone explain the reasoning behind why the Eveny believe the animals were spiritually and psychologically more complex? What changes their views on reindeer to bears, birds, or other animals, including…
  6. Wolves!?! The Eveny own dogs, love and cherish them, as they do most animals, but when it comes to wolves, they have little to no sympathy. Why? Is it because of their ancestors who literally made it seem that wolves were competing with humans for meat?
  7. More about wolves: Many wolf metaphors came about this previously stated topic. One being the wolf who profits on you drinking their vodka, fighting, and doing dumb things. Who are the “wolves” of today’s world, more importantly, of our culture?
  8. Give me insights on the Bayanay, and how the Eveny people viewed him. Everything from accidental kill, to hunting, to killing for protection, what do you think the Eveny believe about his presence in all these situations?
  9. Dreams and animals seem to go hand in hand with this culture. What kind of ties with a person’s subconscious dream world about animals and their outside lives can you think of? I guess it’s all about how sacred the animals are in their culture, but would you go far enough to say that animals have domesticated these people as well, by basing their religion and culture around them?

There are plenty of things to talk about here, and I’m sure my co-leader will have many other points to bring up as well in class.

Come on, VT

not domesticate related, but take a look at this picture of “to-go” containers piled high at west end (obviously not taken to go, as they were returned on the dish roundabout)

oh, did I mention this picture was taken BEFORE NOON?!?!

Erica, I know you wouldn’t approve

“Taming” Animals, or Dominating Them?

Are humans above nature?

Bulliet begins the second part of his book by talking about the taming of wild animals as part of the domestication process. This entire chapter dealt with keeping the captured/breeding population seperate from the wild and feral animals of the wilderness. He begins with his rats and foxes example, where after decades of testing and “natural selection” -I say that sarcastically, as the testing and breeding of certain selected rats was very unnatural in itself- led to the creation of the “white lab rat” as people attempted to breed the albinos together, and successfully had. He also talks about how through so many generations of breeding and being held in captivity, this tameness gene kept elevating and more and more with each offspring. However, the experimenter was actually selecting the tamest of all the offspring, and thus practically determined the future generations of the captive foxes.

So, to what extent is the domestication of animals deemed useful? Bulliet would argue that people think “domestic animal means ‘useful animal.'” He separates usage of animals into primary & secondary uses: primary being meat , and secondary meaning the extras involved in the domestication of the animal. These could range anywhere from wool from sheep, to riding of horses and camels, to even the plowing of fields. The primary use, however is always meat, as it is a driving force for humans to hunt, herd, and “hamburgize,”(see what I did there?) for their own survival.

Now the question at hand is, when did the sacrificing of animals come about? There has always been a huge request for animal sacrifice throughout all religions and all races of the world. A more personal example, when attending a family gathering dinner, my cousin’s chickens were raised and killed for the meal, and they told me before the killing of the chickens, they would say a prayer to thank God for the wonderful creatures that he put on his earth. Now, I’m not very religious, but that right there almost sounds like sacrifice itself! Bulliet would go on to say that domestication could have been for the purpose of sacrifice, because in case of a sacrificial event, there would ALWAYS be an animal on hand. Versus hoping the hunter of the group found game, they could always rely on the domesticates.

I’ve described three scenarios here, in which it seems like humans have distinguished themselves above nature: taming and selective breeding by humans, claiming animals as being useful for humans, and claiming animals lives in human sacrificial usage. Are we starting to exploit the benefits of domesticated animals? Are we dominating their lives in an unfair manor? Ingold would argue that, saying that humans, “have risen above, and have sought to bring under control, a world of nature that includes their own animality.” To what reason do we assume the right to slaughter animals for our own religious pleasing? Who deemed animal meat as a primary use for humans? Why do we, as humans, think we can genetically change a species to suit our quest for knowledge?

I am starting to increasingly understand the world through a vegetarian’s eyes.

Post-Domesticates in a Domestic World

First of all, what a read.

This book, Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers is so interesting, and just after a week of reading it I am already finding myself either quoting it or introducing it’s logic in my conversation.  There are so many different things to talk about, so I’m going to go right into it. I consider myself to be a post-domestic type of person. I definitely feel the guilt for the mass onslaught of animals born and raised on factory farms to live for one purpose: get nice and fat, then sold for a high price and killed for human gain. The thing is, however, I can’t stop myself from eating the meat, milk, eggs, and other products they provide us with. It’s too damn good.

To put the idea of domestic vs. post-domestic societies in a different perspective, consider this: I have an Indian roommate, who is of Hindu decent. Another roommate of mine is of Irish decent. One day we got on the topic of vegetarian diets and my Irish roommate said simply, “that’s stupid.” My Indian roommate (who eats all types of meat), was slightly offended by it, being that many Hindus do not eat meat. Could this, itself, be an almost spot on representation of domestic vs. post domestic living styles?

The world is slowly shifting to a more “post-domestic” way of life. I love the movie examples Bulliet used when talking about it, such as the 1970’s remake of the 1930’s original King Kong showed the girl showing affection towards the beast that abducted her (before she hated the kidnapper). Humans are slowly but surely shifting their mindsets of domestic societies to post domestic societies, mainly by showing their ever growing for animals, and as Bulliet pointed out, mammals especially. Its’s just a proven fact that a person might get more teary eyed over a lost dog, versus a lost gold fish (although my sister cried her eyes out when her Beta fish died?)

I like how Bulliet separated all known life into the stages dealing with the domestication of animals. You got your pre-domestic age: before the domestication of animals, generating the hunter/gatherer tribes Diamond told us about. Then we have Domestication: when we started harboring animals, breeding and feeding, and so on. Finally, the unreached, yet not unobtainable stage of post-domestication. But this all had to come about after humans realized they were smarter and more adept than animals, and had to separate themselves.

Bulliet denotes 3 main points as to how humans seperated themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. One point was that human sexual awareness played a key role. We could control who we wanted to breed with, and that like. Another point was the meat intake humans have. In particular, our hunting and use of tools that allowed us to obtain meat. Finally, speech was the 3rd point. Humans have the ability to connect with one another in ways animals cannot. We mimic other animals, sing songs, and form different shapes with our mouths to produce sounds animals couldn’t imagine producing.

I’m ending this blog on a quote in this book I found quite interesting about vegetarianism and veganism, and it had me pondering:
“The human digestive system and physiology cannot be fooled by squeezing a diet from a moral. We are omnivores: our intestines and teeth attest to this fact.”

More importantly, our taste buds attest as well.