After hearing about how you plan on writing about the agency of dogs in the Great War, I now have a better understanding and grasp of your subject matter. I am a little surprised to read that you are questioning animals having agency in history though. I realize that what we as humans do to try to understand what animals are thinking is speculate on what they are thinking (using human thoughts) but I tend to look at this a little differently, I think back to the way that animals have definitely had a part in our past and without them, then history would most certainly been different. I think back to the horses used by Ghengis Khan and the elephants used by Hannibal to cross the Alps, without these animals, the course of history would have been much different. Claire had a good point about the rats and fleas in her post which was a definite twist that I had never thought of. So I do believe that animals deserve their place in history. Great post this week.
As usual you provided a great piece of writing in my opinion. I always look forward to your posts because they seem to make me think back to personal experiences of my own in many cases. In this post, I was taken back to many different memories of all of my four legged family members, who are no longer with me. I was able to look back and remember lots of memories of the impact that they had on me and hopefully I had a positive impact on them as well. The interactions between humans and animals are always going to be there and the lack of our understanding, or the way that some people choose not to understand language and body language used by animals is sometimes tragic. I firmly believe after this week’s readings that animals definitely have a place in our history. The recognition of the agency that animals have received in the past has been almost non existent and with this type of writing/research, hopefully that will change in the near future.
I was glad to see that I was not the only one in the class that was wondering about animals and their agency or interaction with humans. This week’s reading were very eye opening, as I had never really looked at the theory that we were just animals ourselves, having evolved to our current place in the animal kingdom. I then started to think back on how animals have been utilized by humans for their ability to do certain things, i.e. chimpanzees in space, dolphins used by the US Navy, etc. Animals definitely deserve the recognition.
So do you see agency as a continuum, with natural disasters, urban landscapes, and other non-living shapers of history on one end and humans on the other?
I was also pleased that we did this reading after “On Deep History and the Brain,” because integrating animals into the study of history requires interdisciplinarity including psychology and the natural sciences. What do you think about how both week’s readings position people in relation to other beings and forces?
(Also, I think you were a willing cat owner–you just were just not the only being exercising agency in the situation!)
It’s always nice to read your posts, Carmen, as they make me reflect on our readings in a new way. I think your comment on agency is very well thought out, and I agree with you that, I just don’t *know* about the level of agency embodied and practiced by living organisms. I agree with your statement that “In a way I believe that anything that makes some sort of difference in an agent, yet at the same time, I recognize how limitless that type of thinking might be.” But, in the end, I just conclude that we are supposed to be learning how to be historians, and that part of that is thinking, questioning, and embracing new thoughts. Which you’re doing!
Not knowing much about the domestication of dogs, I just kind of took Walker’s word for it that they partially domesticated themselves. You might already be aware of this, but cats fully domesticated themselves and in many senses are still wild due to not having been selectively bred the way that dogs have. Cats were “settlers of matters” while deciding to hang out in grain silos eating mice, and the farmers appreciated them for it.
As I was doing these readings, I was thinking of you, Laura! I agree with Faith that I think I have a better understanding of your project, and an entirely foreign (to me) branch of history. I struggle too with anthropomorphizing animals, but think it is just one of my personal limitations. As you, and Shaw, discuss, we may never fully understand animal agency but they *do* have a place in history, just as “pre-history” does.
I had a similar experience with the readings–how had I never thought of this before? Fudge’s work on the cows was very eye-opening, and I do agree that cows must have an established world order within which they work. The difficulty I have, though, is ever understanding that order. While involving other disciplines can provide insight, won’t we always try to arrange their experiences through a human definition?
I agree with you and Laura that there are certainly many forms of language other than verbal. I also think its human nature to try and separate itself from the animal world, nature may be a poor choice of words here. I like the example you used of how we as humans communicate with dogs. Dogs respond to yelling and loud noises but not with the same effect they do of an intense stare. Be careful with staring at strange dogs who may not believe you are the Alpha in a given situation! In this example the dog is directly communicating with you in a way that is easily understood – get ready to run! I think here the human has not merely interacted with the dog but that the dog may have taken the initiative. Sorry for the rambling but your idea and examples made me think of many situations where communication between humans and animals is nonverbal and understood by both parties. Thanks Kate!