Reading for Placing Animals by Urbanik, Part.1

After finishing the first half of Placing Animals (up to chapter 3) I have already determined that this book reads like a textbook. So far it is drier than I had initially perceived. In the preface, the author Urbanik, discusses the importance of animal-human relationships. In Chapter One, she presents the main purpose of her book. She expects it to be used as an educational tool for college, and graduate students alike, to better understand the human-animal relationship and those that study it. I did not know that Pythagoras was a vegetarian, and that his name was used as reference to those who practiced vegetarianism (2). On that same page, she mentioned that Montaigne used his cats to refer to their “self” as being more complicated than a mechanical system like a clock. The first image that popped into my head was this album titled “Self” with a cat on the cover, which I will now associate with Michel Montaigne and his differing opinion to Descartes (2).

In Chapter Two: A History of Animal Geography, it was interesting to see that Marsh wrote a book focused solely on the importance and impact the camel had (26). The man, who is considered the first environmentalist concerned for the impact humans would have on the landscapes and animals, wrote about camels. At first I found it strange that of all animals he chose camels, but once I read more it became apparent that camels were very crucial to our trade and economic system, travel etc. In his book he demonstrated the relationship between humans and animals, which was forward thinking. The multiple ethical decisions that are made need a reliable concept to follow, Lynn produced a more specific set of “rules” because he argued “they are too rigidly ideal to be useful in sorting out human-animal relations” (39). He further illustrates that anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and ecocentrism are do not allow much wiggle room. In this chapter Urbanik also mentions the idea of dualism (41). This theme has been found at least hinted at in almost all of the books we have read prior to this book. When discussing power in terms of the human-animal relationship, the example of the elephant enclosed in a zoo would be weaker, however, when that animal is in the wild they would have more strength because they are not being physically restrained (42). Throughout history the “waves” of zoogeography were first focused on the wildness of animals without humans, and the second wave gained the concept of cultural ecology and the relationship between humans and animals, and now we are in a wave that has a greater focus on both of these concepts (42).

In Geographies of More-than-Human Homes and Cultures, there was a focus on the relationship we have with domesticated animals, namely pets. The purpose is “to gain a geographic understanding of the myriad ways we can understand the role of animals as pets and as markers of culture and cultural difference” (50). The part discussing the two species that Tuan focused on in his book about the third wave or “new” animal geography, the goldfish, and the dog. At first glance, the dog I can understand but the goldfish, not so much. However, he talked about all the deformities we have bred into the goldfish that can cause serious harm and even death. The enlarged eyes, and warts on the head are just some examples of the physical and genetic manipulation we subjected to these amphibians. Dogs too, the droopy ears, shortened jaws, cause problems as well. Smaller snouts can cause trouble breathing and diseases such as hip dysplasia have developed due to our incessant distortion we have subjected them too (51). I found it interesting that in Victoria Era, according to Howell, exposed many key points that reinforced the idea that pets posed as capital in a more cared for way, and women reacted distraught when their pets were stolen, and emasculated men for their inability to protect their “property” and home. This as a result further established the “domestic ideology that confined women, like their pets, back into the supposed safety of home spaces” (54). It was interesting that Urbanik showed examples of animal geography in the film and social media franchise (65). Different sides are shown, animals shown as angelic and not touched by humans, March of the Penguins. Movies that use human narration yet have no humans shown in the film, makes it out to be that humans are out of place. And then you have movies like King Kong and the Jaws franchise, describing the animals as being monsters and destructive, unnatural, unwanted (66). Movies like these further divide the views of the human-animal relationship and the influence associated.

Overall, I learned a lot from this book without feeling like I was on a dumber level, like the French theorist. Although the book is set up as a textbook it was not a very difficult read, although it was dry, as I mentioned earlier. The review of the chapter, key terms or words, and discussion questions in the back of each chapter, was a great addition that makes the reader pose questions and go deeper than just what is written on the page.

Some questions to think about:

  1. What are some other animals besides camels that made such an impact on humans and their survival?
  2. What are some other examples that Urbanik did not mention in regard to the utilization of animals?
This is what I was reminded of from Michel Montaigne.

This is what I was reminded of from Michel Montaigne, and his cats.

The Victorian Era, and pets.

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