The objectification of domestic animals? Throughout history (and still today) we have objectified people as slaves or in sexual ways. Thus the objectification of animals was not so hard, comparatively. If we understand behavior of other species in light of our behavior (like experiences of pain) then how far down the evolutionary scale does the analogy hold? It could appear to some (like some radical vegan friends of mine) that there exists a challenge for every human to recognize his or her attitudes to non-humans as a form of prejudice no less objectionable than racism or sexism. Domesticated animals, like human slaves of the past and present or land, is property. Today, the relationship to the domestic donkey (and other domestic animals) is strictly economic and includes no obligations only privileges.
It is understanding the historical development of human relationships with donkeys that will help us understand more fully their objectification… and our present-day moral responsibilities.
This was a bit of a tangent but relevant to previous class discussions. hum. till Tuesday, deep-spring2013-historical-philosopher-students.
I read this post and immediately wanted to provide my thoughts on the apparent lack of evidence to reconstructing what took place in our deepest pasts of human history. There are a large amount of holes in our understanding of deep history (or our early history) but the important point is that I was not surprised. I think given the distance in time we are separated from the initial point of animal domestication allows us to reasonably expect a certain level of uncertainty.
This level of uncertainty can be better understood by the utilization of general categories. But perhaps the more relevant consideration is could there be a better way to understand the inherent uncertainties?
There are a lot of really interesting ideas in this post. I read through it a few times, and each time I felt like I had completely different ideas popping up in my mind. I completely agree that in Western Civilization, we have slowly tried to separate ourselves from animals and nature; however, as Dr. Nelson pointed out in her comment, there are many examples of cultures that don’t exhibit this trait. Why is this? Why as westerners do we seek to completely remove ourselves from our animalistic pasts, while other cultures revolve around the idea that we should be one with nature. And additionally, if we are seeking to separate ourselves from animals, then why do we try to stop things like bullfighting? Do we feel that we are superior to the animal and have a responsibility to look out for its best interests, or is there some sort of subconscious feeling that the bull has feelings and a family and so on and really isn’t so different from us? I don’t really have any answers, your post just really created a lot of questions for me. I look forward to discussing them on Tuesday.
I completely agree with what you have commented on in this post.It really is awesome how much we can determine from things as simple as bones and seeds. As more and more methods of discovering a date for horse domestication were presented by Anthony, I couldn’t help but wonder how many unique tests and examinations can be done to determine the history of not only the horse, but any animal. If there are this many ways to study horse history, one could assume that most other animals probably have features that become distinguishable when they come into contact with humans or other disruptive forces. I mentioned in my post that I really appreciate all of the work that anthropologists due because much of the time, they will never truly know the answers to their questions even after a lifetime of work. But the more I think about all the techniques that could be used to obtain information about the past, the more it seems like eventually you must have put together so many different pieces of data that the puzzle is complete!
The food / calorie issue is certainly important, and you raise some interesting questions about how Anthony’s approach might enhance Diamond’s basic framework. I’m wondering how the physical and material relationships (and energy equations) raised here relate to Bulliet’s discussion of the donkey?
There is so much here to keep us busy in class tomorrow! Of course desiderata of human uniqueness will (always) be a chicken / egg debate, but it’s safe to assume that we will hang on to it, as it is so central to our identity as humans. We do need to remember, however, that the “mastering nature” framework and the rational man, abstract reasoning obsession are very much rooted in the narrative of Western Civilization — which is important, but it certainly isn’t the only flavor of human culture around, either in the past or the present. Think of the Eveny, for example…
I know what you mean about the elusiveness of ever having certainty about “what happened” in the distant past. I thought about specializing in Ancient History or Classics, but shifted my focus forward considerably (to the 19th and 20th centuries), in part because I wanted more certainty about what I knew and what I could say about what had happened in the past. I assumed (as do many historians) that we have better records and more kinds of evidence for the recent past than for distant centuries, and in some ways that will always be true. But one of the (many) exciting things about the new convergence of history and the sciences is that we now have access to all kinds of information that previously was unavailable – even about things that seem beyond recovery, like the early moments of domestication. At the same time, eco-ethnographers such as Natasha Fijn (whose book, Living with Herds I have praised in class many times) have helped us see domestication as an ongoing social relationship embedded in cultural practices rather than as an biological moment that happened long ago. I think the research that Anthony developed marries the best of both worlds.
I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot about the origins of riding! I’m wondering about the possible parallels between early horse and early reindeer riders – both of which may have been riding the very species they were hunting. It’s an interesting wrinkle in the domestication pattern.
There’s so much here for us to talk about! For now, a quick comment on horizons — yes, they are most useful and quite necessary. Going back to the earlier discussion we had about “progress,” the concept of a chronological and developmental horizon helps make meaningful comparisons about change that is variable and influenced by specific local conditions. If we think that there is “A Bronze Age” that happened in one place at one time, then all other cultures must be “backward” or “aberrant” if they don’t look just so at the right time.
Then my work is done! We do think of History as being preoccupied with human activity as recorded by texts, and until recently (the last few decades) have overlooked many other kinds of evidence (material culture, other animals, the environment, etc.). And scientists and historians have until very recently (that last decade or so) assumed there was a distinct boundary between “pre” history and the real thing, which was marked by the advent of writing, agriculture, “civilization,” etc. Similarly, we assume that natural history and history don’t have all that much to say to each other. The goal of the course is to think about how animals have indeed shaped the human experience — from its very beginnings until the present.