Research Framework and Overview

These projects examine the history of a particular  domesticated species and human society across the entire chronological expanse of their relationship.

CowSilhouetteCropUsing interdisciplinary research, the projects provide a case study for thinking about the cultural interface between sociology and ethology and between history and natural history.  They highlight how the behavior and qualities of particular animal species have shaped human endeavors, and how humans’ have influenced the lives of these creatures.

Each of the projects follows a common format, which includes a brief evolutionary history, a discussion of how domestication began, an overview of the animal species’ ethology, and an analysis of how the animal in question has influenced human affairs in different historical contexts. The animals chosen here represent a spectrum of domestic relationships, beginning with the dog, whose fortunes have been intertwined with humanity for tens and thousands of years. The next set of projects looks at the cow, goat, camel and pig — ungulates who have long served as food, transport, and sources symbolic power. The last two projects focus on the silk moth and yeast, challenging us to think carefully about the meaning of concepts like “domestication,” “relationship,” “agency,” and “animal.” For many of these terms, the silk moth presents an interesting counter example to the more commonly invoked companion species mentioned above. Yeast is included here as one of the earliest domesticated organisms, even if the “fungus amongus” is not really an animal.

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