Questions of Dogs and Agency

As I begin crafting the final research paper of my graduate career, I have been grappling with the questions I intend to answer through my research. So far, I have come up with a few possible questions that I will attempt to answer, at least to some extent:

How did militarized dogs contribute to the war effort of the opposing sides involved in World War I? (I may focus on Britain and the United States more readily due to the availability of sources but at this time this is not entirely decided).

How did dogs perform tasks which man proved unable to do as well as or as efficiently during World War I? 

How did relationships develop between man and canine during wartime? What did they mean for human and animal war experiences?

Why is it important to discuss dogs’ agency during this particular time period? 

These questions then lend themselves to the significance of my paper. Who cares about dogs in war? Few animals (if any) are as inextricably linked to human beings like canines. However, their contributions to World War I cannot be overlooked as a mere means to placate man. Rather, dogs chose to cooperate of their own accord and this is precisely where discussions of agency come into play: are dogs agents in a vein similar to humans? This is not an easy question to answer and it is this question that calls for more prodding into the subject of animal agency. Furthermore, a nostalgia for animals in warfare has emerged in the past few years with films such as War Horse and books such as Rebecca Frankel’s War Dogs (see next post). Certainly, the time appears to be ripe for more study into the human-animal war experience. Lastly, animals (including dogs) are proving that war is not simply a human affair. Instead, the historic use of animals during wartime proves that oftentimes, men were unable to battle one another alone.


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