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Animal Studies Research Guide: Home

What is animal studies? What search terms should I use to find sources on nonhuman animals within the humanities? How can I study issues of animal exploitation as an undergraduate? This research guide aims to answer these questions for students at Swem.

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Suggested Subject Headings:

Animal welfare--United States.



Animal studies guide

Resources for research topics related to:

  • Animal liberation                                                    (ethics and activism)
  • Animals in U.S. history                                         (history and law)
  • Animal exploitation and industry                        (agriculture and game)
  • Species history                                                      (breeding and zoology)
  • Representation of animals                                  (art, media, and literature)
  • Anthrozoology                                                         (study of human/animal relations)
  • Posthumanism                                                      (philosophy and cultural studies)

Photo: W&M Homecoming, 1970. Colonial Echo


What is animal studies?

A growing body of scholarship that centers nonhuman animals in a range of contexts: historical, ethical, sociological, literary. Animal studies borrows methods and theories from disciplines in both the sciences and humanities, and is rapidly developing its own unique approach to questions of animal liberation, animality, and interspecies relationships. Because animal studies is still taking shape, scholars have different visions of how to define the field.

The posthumanist branch of animal studies scholarship emphasizes theoretical undermining of humanist understandings of species difference and subjectivity while critical animal studies scholarship maintains a sharper focus on practical application to animal liberation. Much animal scholarship reflects a blend of posthumanism and critical animal studies, making animal studies the most fitting umbrella term for the field.

Get acquainted with the three main approaches to the field here:

Animal studies - see James Gorman's "Animal Studies Cross Campus to Lecture Hall," New York Times, January 2, 2012.

Critical animal studies - see Steve Best's "The Rise of Critical Animal Studies," State of Nature, Summer 2009.

Posthumanism -  see Cary Wolfe's "Human, All Too Human: 'Animal Studies' and the Humanities," PMLA 124:2, 2009.

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